Lit A Cynical Walk Through the NJO

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Cynical_Ben, Aug 17, 2013.

  1. Thuro Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2013
    star 4
    Yeah. A lot of books suffered from disjointed writing.
  2. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    I think you could maybe draw a distinction between Thrawn's approach to recruitment and to continued control of a resource. In the EOTH, in the crazy multicultural chaos of the Unknown Regions, Thrawn found it expedient to include all species to encourage goodwill, continued loyalty, and openness to joining from other civilizations. It wasn't a situation where you could cow your subjects into service because he was building an empire out of nothing and had to recruit participants. Within the Empire, however, he already had total control and could simply force compliance when he wanted. And with the Noghri, they were a valuable resource he didn't want to let get away, and he took them for granted more on the level of a resource like cloaking technology than personnel who needed to be managed. Probably he took their seeming cultural devotion for granted and assumed that ruling as a despot was what they expected and he didn't need to manage their feelings because they were fanatically loyal. And he kept using the control mechanism passed on to him because it was convenient and worked.

    I agree that Thrawn the egalitarian Good Empire founder doesn't really work with the ruthless military dictator of TTT, but there are ways to finagle it. I'm not sure it's really a repudiation of his fatal flaw because the contexts are so different, with the Noghri culture really lending itself to taking their loyalty and devotion for granted. I think it's the other overall softenings that add more contrast to that different treatment. I'm not sure I'd really read it as a clash between progressive, enlightened, tolerant and intolerant, speciesist, abusive takes on Thrawn, because I think both can be read through the lens of pragmatism. He'll make a big tent where he needs the resources he can only get with a big tent, because he doesn't really care what species you are, but if he's already got a culturally primitive, slavishly deferential resource in hand, he'll just use it like a tool in hand and not really worry about having to retain it. You could maybe link it to Wayland, too -- Thrawn's central fatal flaw, what everything comes down to (taking the Noghri for granted, trying to direct everything himself without informing his subordinates of anything or making contingency plans, micromanaging, overconfidence) is arrogance. And part of that arrogance is cultural arrogance, maybe born out of his perceived ability to understand and evaluate cultures at a snap -- cultural prejudice moreso than just speciesism. He just doesn't really respect "primitive" cultures, and so where he might choose subtlety or persuasion with a subject whose intellect he respects, with primitive cultures he tends to judge them as inferior and default to impressing them with displays of majesty and power. The same way people will kind of talk to people who don't understand their language like they're stupid, Thrawn treats primitives like they're stupid and only respect violence and grandeur, like a caricature of barbarism. "Me big man, me have big fire weapon, you make me king, you obey, or me kill you." With the Noghri, it's "I'm your lord, aren't I? So you have to do what I say or it's your ass, don't you? So do what I ****ing say and that's the end of it, your stupid culture says so."
  3. Grey1 Host: 181st Imperial Discussion Group

    VIP
    Member Since:
    Nov 21, 2000
    star 4
    Make everything just a bit off so that there would never be the perfect grutchin. That there would always only be the wrong blend of ice cream in the freezer-beast, never your favourite one.

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  4. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Do you think WJW was too overt with this?

    Tangent: The intractable problem which I've had with the Expanded Universe since forever is trying to reconcile stuff like the WJW's quotes above and his insertion of this mindset into his writing, perhaps even better exemplified by the Vergere retcon. As a reader, am I supposed to accept that what I read originally was wrong? Did Vergere torture Jacen even though that doesn't happen once in Traitor? The Vergere retcon is just the most blatant example but stories are constantly retconning their predecessors by describing their events inaccurately and operating off of that incorrect version, and it builds. Hell, this is pretty much what happened with Thrawn.

    It's why I've always been pretty cynical about continuity and the idea that Star Wars is one continuity. It's not. Stories project their continuity onto earlier stories, rather than the other way around. Vergere being a Sith was convenient to LOTF, so it used that out of the earlier story. The NJO didn't influence LOTF at all. LOTF influenced the NJO by taking what was convenient and reshaping it to fit its needs. The other stuff in the NJO that wasn't suitable for LOTF doesn't get mentioned at all, sometimes to an absurd extent.

    "Even if the New Republic somehow, impossibly, turned the tide. Even if some miracle happened and they retook Coruscant what they won wouldn't be the same planet they had lost. The Yuuzhan Vong had come, and they were never going to go away. Even if Jacen had found a club big enough to knock the whole species back beyond the galactic horizon, nothing could ever erase the scars they would leave behind."

    "In the course of the excavations, vast amounts of serviceable technology had been discovered, but it would be decades before Coruscant would be suitable for anyone other than structural engineers and construction droids."

    Continuity is a sham. LOTF is just the best example, but the Bantam novels were just as bad. Their consequences were just much more easily and less egregiously ignored.
  5. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    That seems more of an issue with whomever is in charge of maintaining continuity.

    Nothing is ever going to work 100%, even with a single author - people make mistakes, or change how they view something (certainly the case for the movies, literally for the Han/Greedo scene). But the quote from TUF... yeah, that's fairly egregious. There wasn't even an attempt to retcon it, or work it into a story. How about a novel where they pursue a MacGuffin that can undo Vongforming? Nope, let's handwave it away.

    People often cite things like "how the Death Star plans got stolen" or "the bounty hunter on Ord Mantell" as a reason why continuity is bunk. But that's all a result of someone in charge not saying "That story's been told, pick something else".

    I admit also that there is something to be said about trying to make it work - I mean, Star Wars has it better than, say, the poor fans that try to make sense of Transformers or Zelda.

    And in all fairness to WJW, I believe he mentioned that there wasn't much in the way of coordination with the writing of the NJO.
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  6. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    The NJO was the most organized they've been. I think afterward with LOTF and FOTJ, they just didn't care.
  7. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    Found WJW's old thread here:

    "I don't actually know what any of the previous NJO authors may have been told to do with the character of Luke. I found his reasons for avoiding action unconvincing, and so developed my own. Del Rey and Lucasfilm both approved the outline, so I assume my ideas were okay with them."
  8. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    What were the unconvincing reasons?
  9. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    Not sure; still going through the old thread.

    But I did come across this from WJW:
    "Which brings me to the point of expanding the canon, or the notion of canon. I think it's an admirable thing. One has to admit that the ideas from the films are interesting, but limited and unsophisticated (and therefore perfect for the cinema). (Again this is not to disparage the films--- I know from writing films myself that there's only so much you can do in 100 minutes of screen time.) NJO is an attempt to let the books do best what books do, which is to provide a depth and maturity of a type that is impossible in film."

    Nice. :D
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  10. dokratr0 Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 18, 2013
    star 1
    Also, I think the first EU book I ever read was Vision of the Future.

    Yeah. I say think because my childhood is a baffling haze to me. Somehow, I went from, when ROTS was in the cinemas, pointing at my friend's toy of General Grievous and asking if he was 'The Sith', to a few months later when the DVD released, having about twenty SW books beneath my bed. No idea how.
  11. Jedi Ben Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jul 19, 1999
    star 6
    Or rather: Author attempts to promote his own medium of narrative far above all others - badly.
  12. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    What's sad about this is that despite this truth about different media, I think that the films are more deep than 90% of the EU. I mean, I'm not doing a detailed mental inventory here but Stover is the only one that comes to mind immediately as an author that doesn't view his work in Star Wars as just being tie-in mass market fiction but tries to imbue meaning and purpose to the writing, applicability. I know there's a few others.

    Edit: Though I do agree with his point about the NJO. It's very much an expansion on the themes and ideas presented by the film saga. But it seems that some fans don't want that additional depth to the writing -- this was what my NJO rant in the Disney thread was about. Some people seem to be incapable of seeing any sense of depth or meaning beyond the "rules" of the setting.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Jun 15, 2014
  13. JediKnight75 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 15, 2011
    star 3
    If you can think of any other authors that have a similar view of Stover I'd be interested to know. I agree that he is easily one of the best.
    Last edited by JediKnight75, Jun 15, 2014
  14. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Tom Veitch? The NJO viewed as a whole is pretty well formulated in a thematic sense in what it's trying to say. Traitor is the keystone to that but it's not an outlier, the ideas are present throughout. Sean Stewart. Greg Bear. Jim Luceno, but it depends upon the book.

    A lot of these authors are sadly one and done, and I get the sense that the depth of the writing sort of declined over the past decade. Back when the prequels first started up 1999-2004 or so we got a lot more books that had depth to them than recently. It might simply be a matter of less quantity lately with most of that being taken up by tone deaf writing like LOTF/FOTJ.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Jun 15, 2014
  15. _Catherine_ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2007
    star 4
    Um but in the movies Yoda says there is a dark side therefore the NJO is invalid.
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  16. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    well ****

    The NJO is like a roleplaying game campaign run by one of those GMs with no respect for the setting. This isn't like 'nam. There are RULES.
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Jun 15, 2014
  17. _Catherine_ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2007
    star 4
    Definitely Daniel Keys Moran for shorter fiction. Darko Macan for comics.
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  18. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    I forgot DKM. So really, you've got Stover, Moran, Stewart, Bear, Luceno (sometimes and mostly I'd say his work on the NJO overall than any particular novel), uh... I like Veitch but a lot of people don't. I think there's more nuance to the original Dark Empire than most give credit but the sequels seem like they exist to make money more than because there's a good idea behind them, but they're still decent I guess I dunno YMMV.

    Did Darko Macan do JvS?
    Last edited by DigitalMessiah, Jun 15, 2014
  19. _Catherine_ Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jun 16, 2007
    star 4
    Yeah JvS is his big one. I think he also did Vader's Quest and the first Darth Maul comic, which aren't as good but are still much better than most people remember I think.

    Edit: Oh, and the Chewbacca comic, which is great.
    Last edited by _Catherine_, Jun 15, 2014
  20. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    I think I took something different from WJW comments - that there can't really be a lot of deep background or worldbuilding in movies. (Of course, elsewhere he commented when someone referred to the RPG that he didn't think that they really mattered - "just the books and comics" - so take it for what you will).
  21. DigitalMessiah Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Feb 17, 2004
    star 5
    Well, when he mentions ideas, depth, and maturity, that's not really what I get from it. I suppose it's equally applicable. The NJO wasn't really about worldbuilding though -- one of the chief complaints was that it was blowing up all the worlds that Bantam built.

    And to the extent that it was about worldbuilding, that was pretty much all for naught since the Yuuzhan Vong and Sekot and pretty much everything novel to the NJO was put on a bus immediately thereafter.
  22. Praenomen Cognomen Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 24, 2013
    star 4
    Well, when you build that world out of organic gunk, what do you expect? I mean, buses are covered in organic gunk.
    Last edited by Praenomen Cognomen, Jun 15, 2014
  23. Havac Former Moderator

    Member Since:
    Sep 29, 2005
    star 7
    He didn't do Darth Maul, but he did do X-wing: The Phantom Affair.

    As for other authors who bring some depth, I'd say Allston was actually trying to do more than just tie-in lit. Stephen Barnes definitely tried with The Cestus Deception, and like her or not, Karen Traviss was trying to bring in some ideas to the setting (well, really, one idea, over and over), to use it to communicate a message. K-Mac also seems to have tried to treat the BFC less like Star Wars tie-ins and more like original science fiction.
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  24. blackmyron Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 29, 2005
    star 5
    The series that gave us the first real galaxy map of the Star Wars galaxy? That's one step above worldbuilding. :p
  25. Force Smuggler Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Sep 2, 2012
    star 6
    Why don't we have maps in the books anymore? Or particular regions of where the book will take place?
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