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Lit CRUCIBLE by Troy Denning: The Official Discussion Thread (Spoilers Allowed)

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Havac , Jun 13, 2013.

  1. Lane_Winree

    Lane_Winree Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 30, 2006
    I'll just go ahead and check being called a "hack blogger" off my list of things I was hoping to accomplish today.

    Since you may have missed it the first time, here's my review of the book that addresses the number of in-universe issues I had with it. Don't want to be confronted with the social issues presented in the book? Fine, ignore the section marked "problematic treatment of female characters." The rest of the review still doesn't look pretty.
     
    tjace, Jedi Ben, Darth_Xeres and 9 others like this.
  2. AlyxDinas

    AlyxDinas Jedi Knight star 4

    Registered:
    Jul 12, 2010
    Conversely, I'm not.
     
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  3. Chewbacca89

    Chewbacca89 Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Wow....awesome post.
     
  4. JackG

    JackG Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 15, 2011
    o_O
    Perhaps, "wow, I agree with that post" would've been more accurate.
     
  5. Chewbacca89

    Chewbacca89 Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Are you serious? You're saying I cant voice an opinion, but have to phrase it so others don't get offended?
     
  6. JackG

    JackG Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 15, 2011
    It was a joke!
     
  7. AdmiralWesJanson

    AdmiralWesJanson Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 23, 2005
    While the internet does tend to result in a lot of echo-chambers, the fact that a number of people have the perception that some elements, like the focus on the physical attractiveness and sexual activities of a specific female character, or the frequent use of gratuitous injuries, or the seeming marginalization of characters or events not directly tied to the Jedi Order, Sith, or handful of characters "adopted" into one of those two factions, DOES NOT MAKE OUR OPINIONS MERELY "HALF-BAKED PSUEDO-CRYING" SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU DISAGREE WITH THEM.

    I have not read Crucible myself, and do not comment on any specifics from that work. But given the merits or lack thereof of Denning's other books, I do not think I will enjoy Crucible from a purely aesthetic perspective.

    I AM CALLING YOU OUT FOR THE HYPOCRISY OF DEMANDING A RATIONAL DISCUSSION WHILE IN THE SAME BREATH INSULTING AND MOCKING THE OPINIONS OF PEOPLE WHO HAVE AN OPPOSING VIEWPOINT.
     
  8. The Compeer

    The Compeer Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 12, 2013
    Ooh, boy, I've been avoiding this discussion for the most part until I could read the book myself, but now that I have, I feel compelled to address this. Just to be thorough, I'll go point by point.

    While it's true that Denning never intended to endorse any of the Qrephs' behavior in this book, you're severely missing the point if you think that's the meat of the sexism charges surrounding this and other Denning works. Honestly, it's more of an aesthetic aspect of the book than an actual plot point, so you wouldn't see it in the story as an "ideology", to begin with. The problem isn't simply that female characters such as Mirta and Vestara are described as wearing suggestive clothing once or twice; it's the fact that such depictions are both recurrent in Denning's oeuvre and serve the story in no way, shape or form. Think of it this way: these descriptions are too consistent and too common to be coincidental, and yet over all of the post-NJO Denning books they've never influenced the overall story. Why do you think these descriptions keep cropping up? There has to be a reason, and the simplest ones are that either Denning enjoys writing female characters in such a fashion, or else that he expects his readers to enjoy them. It's not as blatant as what you tend to see in superhero comics, but it's the same principle.



    That's part of it, but you're understating the scope of the problem. It's not just that there's a small number of characters that Denning prefers writing, it's that they all share the same occupation, general background, and overall attitude towards resolving conflict. I imagine your immediate response to this would be to point out that Luke's Jedi come from different backgrounds and have different specialties, but here's the thing: when Denning writes, all of those subtle variations and discrepancies between different Jedi evaporate. Cilghal is the healer and scientist, but other than that, every other Jedi serves more-or-less the same function: a fighter pilot/super-commando that sneaks around a bit before using either a StealthX (what happened to every other model of fighter in the galaxy? I miss A-wings and similar) or their lightsaber to destroy the enemy sans prejudice. I thought one of the most disappointing developments from this book was Ben fighting the Mandalorians in a scout fighter. Never mind when a recon fighter got as many proton torpedos as an X-wing, that already makes little sense, but more to the point, when was the last time you saw a Jedi that wasn't also a crack pilot? I was hoping Ben could distinguish himself partially by not going down that route. But nope, Denning's knocked that off Ben's McJedi checklist, as well. All he has left at this point is his GAG training, but the detective skill matter very little when most of the villains we've seen lately have all the subtlety of a flying brick.


    Honestly, you're right about this. If Allston was leading the post-NJO EU, I at least think things would be better. That's not because I'm predisposed to hate Troy Denning, though; I honestly had few problems with him at all before LOTF. No, Allston would be a better shepherd of the EU because his authorial predilections go against the established grain of the post-Prequel Trilogy EU. You're right in your implication that Allston has some preferred character archetypes. You know what the big one is? Ironically enough, fighter pilots. I know what you're thinking now: "But Compeer, you just had a whole paragraph complaining about how every Jedi's a fighter pilot now! Why do you suddenly want more of them?!" There's some mitigating factors here, though. The obvious one: Allston writes his pilots as capable regardless of whether or not they can use the Force. Many non-Jedi supporting characters have been thrust aside in the last decade or so of EU novels, and Allston would do a lot to rectify that, I think. Just look at Rakehell Squadron, the all-star fighter group he put together in LOTF. Twelve pilots, seven of whom weren't Force-sensitive. All of these seven Badass Normals were already existing characters, and while several were already old mainstays from Rogue and Wraith Squadron days, others were brought out of relative obscurity for this one purpose. How often has Denning done similar, disposable villains notwithstanding?

    Another thing Allston's writing style would improve would be the overall tone of the EU. Remember that of all the writers who deliver Star Wars material these days, Allston is near-unique in being a leftover from Bantam's run with the franchise, the only other notable example being Timothy Zahn. It comes up often enough, but it does bear keeping in mind that stories were different tonally back in the 90's: the stories were much more idealistic, with the heroes always winning and rarely dying. I know the NJO is more popular now than it used to be, but it can't be denied that the stylistic changes that started there have wrought a terrible attrition on the ranks of supporting characters over Del Rey's administration. We've long since reached diminishing returns with regards to character death, and I'm far from the only one who feels it's time to tone it back some. And of the authors that currently write for the post-NJO, Allston is the best candidate we have to reverse this trend.


    There's a reason I'm being as verbose as I am here; I want to make sure that my thinking comes across clearly. You can't simply express your feelings regarding a discussion topic the same way they pop into your head and assume we understand where you're coming from; you need to elaborate carefully. What would you say is the critical difference between your interpretation of the OT, Troy Denning's as you understand it, and his detractors'? Lastly, I know this is a cheap shot, but your grammar could do with some work.

    A pretty serious charge, and nothing you post after this does an adequate job of backing it up. Disagreement with their criticisms does not constitute proof that said criticisms were made in ill faith, as you imply.



    It makes some sense when you put it that way, but when you think about it some more, there's suprisingly little precedent for such a creative choice. The problem here is that in its early days and on through the NJO and, oddly enough, The Phantom Menace, Star Wars maintained a careful balance between spiritual and secular conflict that hasn't received enough credit, honestly. Think about ROTJ for a moment; Luke's confrontation with Vader and the Emperor was climactic, but it wasn't the only climax. In fact, there were three climaxes going on more-or-less concurrently; that one, the one on Endor's surface with Han and Leia, and the one in space with Lando, Wedge, and Ackbar. Two of these three had nothing to do with the Force. Look further, and you'll see this pattern occur elsewhere, as well; The Last Command had two climaxes; the spiritual one at Mt. Tantiss, and the secular one at Bilbringi. Neither one was less important than the other, and although one had far more protagonists than the other, the latter was the one that saw the defeat of the primary antagonist. Even less well-regarded Bantam works like The New Rebellion followed this pattern; spiritual confrontation on Almania, plus secular ones in orbit and on Telti. If anything, the last one was the most important of the three encounters, and yet it was a new civilian character and the droids who salvaged the situation there.

    The problem with maintaining this model, apart from its under-analysis and resultant under-appreciation is the complexity of plotting out a story to resolve in several different situations. It's not surprising that some authors opt for a simpler climax to finish out their stories. The problem here is, of course, one that coincides with Denning's pre-existing preference for the use of Jedi characters. Because of that trait, Denning's climaxes are invariably spiritual, with any material quibbles resolved off-screen. The most egregious example of this is, of course, Invincible, where the political conflict that began the story is simply written away over a handful of pages at the back of the book. I've rambled long enough already on this, so suffice it to say that it's not a matter of Han being made into a lesser character, it's that the story was written in such a way that he would predictably become useless at the end.


    That's fair, and there's nothing wrong with that, but more careful plotting would have given a member of the Big Three a job with more dignity to it, while delegating observer status to someone else, like Kaeg, just to name an easy example that requires little thought. I'd say a recurrent problem with your thoughts here is that you're too fixated on the story as it is to see that it could have easily been better.

    If I may be cynical for a moment, the reader won't experience such anxiety since he knows that the Big Three can't die, least of all the two Jedi, since Denning's on record as only enjoying writing those.


    Failure of imagination on your part; remember, this book could easily be considered a last hurrah for Lando as well, since he became an integral part of the main cast in the last two OT movies and in a lot of Bantam material. Can you think of a few things that it would be cooler for Lando to have been doing at the time? Yes? Well, then Lando can do them! If you're the writer, then with a little creativity there's no end to the awesomeness you can sanction! Guarding the baggage train is for redshirts, anyway!



    The Force is a lot more than a few inches height difference or some extra pounds of muscle, you know. It's that kind of reductionist thinking that's turned the Jedi into a paramilitary militia in recent EU works. Besides, the Qrephs gained Force Powers for their fight with Luke and Leia at the end there, why couldn't Han join the action, too? Don't reply and say that the Qrephs only got those Powers by consorting with the Dark Side, please. It only worked out that way because it was written that way. If you want Han to participate in the clash of wills - and why wouldn't you? He's got one of the strongest wills of any character out there - then write the story so that it works out that way. Think outside the box and it becomes much easier to see how a story can be made better.

    This is where fixing up your grammar would help, again. Anyways, yes, if your story is marketed and advertised as a final outing for a certain group of characters then you'd do well to have a plan to actually use those characters! Someone like Han Solo is called a "Hero" - make sure he gets to perform in that capacity, if you have such a characterization selling your book!


    A compromise that entails one of the characters uprooting themselves from everything that distinguishes them from any prettyboy pilot dude while the other one remains completely unchanged. If you fail to see the problem with that then I'm not sure what you want characters for, anyway. You could play some random FPS instead, then you'd have a visual dimension to your "story" as well as what you've currently got.


    Well, I'm not exactly sure where you're going with this, apart from a simple cheap shot. Maybe you could try elaborating on what you meant, but that would derail the thread, so I'd rather you not.


    You know, I was planning on meeting your charge head-on, with a lengthy diatribe on why Denning's work in general and Crucible in particular fall short of what we, the reading public, should expect from our Star Wars material, but upon further thought, I realized that the challenge is wrong-headed as you state it, so instead of a rant about Denning, I'll explain quickly what's wrong with the idea of analyzing this book, or any EU novel, from a "purely aesthetic" perspective.

    Really, it all comes down to the idea of a shared universe: Star Wars is, after all, a franchise with a very strictly-defined sense of continuity. You write a Star Wars story for LFL, and it doesn't have the word "Infinities" slapped on the cover, then it's canon, and therefore affects what others can do in writing a story. As such, every Star Wars author has a responsibility to every other author. They use each others' characters, settings, and plots, and as such they should feel obligated to respect each others' effort and work with it, rather than against it. More to the point, this sense of responsibility shouldn't go one way. It's not enough to pay deference to material that has already been written; it's also important to ensure that future stories can be written in this setting and written well.

    That's why it's so important to maintain a healthy cast of supporting characters; they're there to pick up the baton when the old generation of heroes retires. That was an explicit and integral part of Crucible's premise, and more to the point, it's been an integral part of the EU for most of my life. I was all of five years old when Vector Prime, the first book in the New Jedi Order series was published. The premise of those books was to raise up a new cast of characters that would be able to take of the reins and protect the galaxy like their parents before them. And yet, after nearly twenty years in-universe and fourteen years out-of-universe, responsibility for resolving any galactic crisis still falls upon Luke Skywalker. Just think about that; the Big Three have had over forty years since Endor, and yet they haven't been able to step aside to allow their heirs to serve in their stead. I've literally grown up on Waiting for Godot Jaina, and we've only just been able to maybe see that pay off.

    Why is this? Simply put, it's been impossible to pass the torch because of a lack of characters to pass the torch to. Most of the Jedi (and other characters, since those exist) that weren't killed off within the confines of the NJO itself have simply been pushed out-of-focus in the intervening years. The result is a main cast that has about as much diversity as the Spanish Hapsburgs, a problem that has forced the heroes of Yavin to stay on the front lines long past the end of their effective shelf life as dynamic characters. And you know, this could be fixed at any time, simply by introducing new characters to replace the one's we've lost, or else to bring back existing characters that have fallen by the wayside. That's where Denning truly fails in his responsibility as a collaborative author; he has had plenty enough freedom to rectify this demographic shift, and yet over the past decade of stories has done little-to-nothing to enhance the diversity of the cast or create a richer universe for other writers to explore. That's an entire field of responsibility that the simplistic platitude "purely aesthetic" does not take into account, which is a problem since it's also the same respect in which Troy Denning is most problematic, from a creative standpoint. He's not killing the EU, he simply hasn't given it the sort of new characters, locations, stories, or prose that would give it life again. And that, honestly, is a lot more painful to watch.
     
  9. AdmiralWesJanson

    AdmiralWesJanson Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 23, 2005
    Thank you, Compeer, for making a rational argument that is far superior to my quick and emotional response.
     
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  10. JediMatteus

    JediMatteus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Sep 16, 2008
    yeah this is messed up. We need a lead author that has some vision and is not so linear
     
  11. _Catherine_

    _Catherine_ Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Wow....awesome post.
     
  12. The Compeer

    The Compeer Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 12, 2013

    Hehe, thanks. :) Took me over an hour to write, but I've been wanting to weigh in on the state of the post-ROTJ EU ever since I joined the board, and I wanted it to be nice and comprehensive. Looking back over it, I feel like it was worth the effort to do so, since in writing I managed to make my misgivings clearer even to myself. I didn't realize until I started writing the relevant paragraph just how long the NJO era's been going on in terms of my own life. I was still in Kindergarten back when the "pass the torch" idea became the centerpoint of the EU, and yet it's only now that I'm in college that it can really begin in earnest. And yet there's no one left to answer the call, now. :(
     
  13. JackG

    JackG Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Aug 15, 2011
    To keep myself balanced:
    o_O
    Perhaps, "wow, I agree with that post" would've been more accurate.

    ;)
     
  14. Stymi

    Stymi Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 10, 2002

    Here, here! Probably one of the most interesting post I've read on these boards in a while.

    I'm sure Sniper_Wolf will be endlessly attacked for daring to take a different perspective around here.

    I guess I just opened myself up too.

    As I said in the past, Crucible was not that good, but not the worst Star Wars book by a long shot. Mercy Kill and Revan were BOTH worse, IMO. Fatal Alliance as well...to name a few more recent books. Don't even get me started on how awful both TFU books were.
     
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  15. Dr. Steve Brule

    Dr. Steve Brule Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Sep 7, 2012
    Really great post, Compeer. I'd vote for it multiple times if I could.
     
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  16. Chewbacca89

    Chewbacca89 Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Mine was a joke as well lol...
     
  17. Chewbacca89

    Chewbacca89 Jedi Master star 5

    Registered:
    Oct 25, 2012
    If you havemt read the book, then why are you here in the discussion thread for said book?
     
  18. AdmiralWesJanson

    AdmiralWesJanson Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    May 23, 2005
    Attacked? Honestly, yes. At least in my case, not because someone holds an opposing viewpoint (I personally am not all that fond of Stover books for example) but because that person, in the same rant as demanding a more objective discussion, accused others of intellectual dishonesty, calling other hacks, making suicide jokes, and in the exact same sentence as calling for a more reasoned debate mocks the opinions of other posters and claims that their opinions are either "half-baked pseduo-crying" or simply falling in with a popular consensus about "crucified authors."

    Yes, Revan was bad. So were the TFU books (but then, so were the games, really). Mercy kill was not bad, but it felt far inferior to the other Allston X-Wing novels, at least it was better than most of Allston's LotF and FotJ books. Haven't read Fatal Alliance.


    Because I like debate, have an opinion on Denning's other works, and am curious as to whether it is worth my time and attention to pick up Crucible and read it or not. And as far as I can tell, many of the themes and issues in Crucible are more wideranging than just this single book, as it was advertised to be a "final end of an era" type work for the Star Wars EU.
     
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  19. _Catherine_

    _Catherine_ Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jun 16, 2007
    Tbh I was just sardonically copying Chewbacca89's post from the top of the page. :p

    Very good post, though. The only part I may take issue with is this:

    I'm not sure it's fair to blame the NJO for this trend, at least not entirely. The NJO, despite being over twice as long as LOTF, killed off approximately the same number of characters as that series. I also feel like, on average, the major NJO deaths were often more integral to narrative or character advancement than the DNT-LOTF-FOTJ deaths have been. They also tended to be much better written and more respectful of the characters being killed off. I don't even mean just the main Chewie/Anakin/Borsk/Ganner heroic last stands everyone remembers; even secondary and minor characters like Dorsk 82, Elegos, Ackbar, and Ikrit met some really understated, poignant, haunting ends. I felt something when all those characters died. I didn't feel anything when anyone in the post-NJO died, except anger and disappointment.

    I was also going to say something about how the prequels are probably just as much to blame if not more, but I got bored just thinking about it, so suffice it to say that I think a lot of recurring tropes employed by the modern EU--murky morality, boring political drama, boring Jedi, endless Jedi vs. Sith action forever, lots of characters dying--is due to it copying the prequels, not the NJO. DNLOTFFOTJ could have done with a little cribbing from the NJO, I think.
     
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  20. The Compeer

    The Compeer Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 12, 2013

    Fair enough. I'm not qualified to critique the NJO to the same extent that I do Denning's work, since I've only read the New Essential Guides, TUF, and part of VP. Really, the only trend I sought to extrapolate from there was that numerous characters died there, just as they do in later works. I'll grant that there's nuance and mitigation to be found in a careful reading, but honestly I don't think the EU's current handlers have done that same analysis for themselves, and it's their thought process that drives new stories, not ours. What I suspect Del Rey took away from the series was, "Vong didn't work; toss 'em, but keep the grim n' gritty". At any rate, the specifics don't matter that much anymore; it's the rut we're in, and we desperately need an out.
     
  21. Jedifirefly5

    Jedifirefly5 Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Sep 5, 2012
    [hl=black]There's no need to get that kind of personal.[/hl]
     
  22. Ghost

    Ghost Chosen One star 7

    Registered:
    Oct 13, 2003

    Honestly I think it's a problem many have seen with the post-NJO EU in general, but it's still stunning to see Denning being so blind and uncreative about it.

    And he's not even that creative with the Jedi!
    * He's stripped away the personalities of most non Skywalker/Solo Jedi (with a few exceptions: Saba, Kenth, and maybe Tahiri). And changed the personalities of those who still have it.
    * They've basically become PT Jedi clones. And they're only ever at the Temple, or whatever Jedi headquarters. The Jedi are more than their headquarters! They should have diversity, look at DOTJ for a great example.

    I get that the Force is the most unique thing about Star Wars, and I like reading about the Force and Force-users... but that's not all of Star Wars. And when you do use Force-users, you should show diversity and depth.

    Jaina can be a Jedi... away from the Temple. Going on missions, training an apprentice, founding a Jedi academy on Bastion, etc. She can be married to someone who isn't a Jedi. Jag can do non-Jedi things and still be interesting. So can Han. They can interact with people who aren't Jedi.

    The biggest strength about Luke's Jedi, what makes them a NEW Jedi Order, was that they weren't so insular and uniform. They were diverse, had other lives, had different experiences, interacted with others. That's being destroyed, if it isn't already.

    In short, by being so narrowly-focused on the Jedi, Denning has destroyed what made the Jedi interesting.






    Oh, and blue text shouting guy, Havac was responding to the blog post, particularly a very revealing quote made by Denning, commenting on all of Denning's works and the direction of the EU in general. And he used the word "myopia" because that's the word Denning used. So chill out.



    Yeah, that's the other big problem with post-NJO stories... they're not character-driven.

    If you ever read some books on what good storytelling is all about, you can bet the idea of a story being "character-driven, not plot-driven" will be almost as common as the phrase "show, don't tell."

    I'm fine with the characters changing, I don't expect the Big Three to be frozen in carbonite. But we never see the character changes, or are never given reasons for the character changes, or what should be the un-changeable essence of a character is changed. And when big events do happen, like Jaina killing her twin brother... nothing.
     
  23. Darth Xalfrea

    Darth Xalfrea Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 2, 2013
    Which, again, makes me think that Del Rey is under the delusion that the EU fanbase is exactly the same as general movie audiences where all they care about in Star Wars is religious zealots wield laser swords while battle other religious zealots wielding laser swords as opposed to actual wars among the stars. Say whatever you want about Denning, but I have a suspicion that the person in charge of Del Rey is the one dictating which stories they should do.
     
  24. The Compeer

    The Compeer Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 12, 2013

    I dunno. I for one think we need to give Star Peace a chance.
     
  25. newdawn12

    newdawn12 Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Feb 9, 2013
    Editors have to approve the stories, and Leland Chee, and Pablo Hidalgo have to approve the stories.
    Del Rey meets with Lucasbooks once a month to discuss future story ideas. Del Rey edittors come up with the story ideas, they then choose the writer, and the writer writes the story, then Lucasfilm licensing either approves, or disapproves the story.