One would assume that most authors never actually confront their characters in flesh and blood. But for John Jackson Miller, that’s a commonplace, ComicCon experience.
The author of numerous “Star Wars” comics and stories, Miller comes face to face with fans at signings and conventions, many of whom craft costumes of their favorite characters. But that, Miller explained in an interview, is one of the reasons he loves spinning fantasies based on the “Star Wars” universe.
Miller was reached by phone at his home near Stevens Point on the eve of his trip to ComicCon International in San Diego.
Q: What’s your new book about?
A: “Star Wars: Lost Tribe of the Sith” is an anthology of a number of short stories I wrote over the last three years that were released as ebooks. I’ve added a novella that has extended the story considerably. I also provided my own maps of the planet that these people are living on. That’s kind of fun, because it’s got that whole “Lord of the Rings” feel to it. You can follow along on the map where the characters are going.
Q: What kind of research goes into writing something like that?
A: There was a series of novels for the “Star Wars” books called “Fate of the Jedi,” where Luke Skywalker and his kids have to deal with this band of evil Sith warriors that have been discovered living on this primitive planet where they’ve been stranded for 5,000 years. Darth Vader is a Sith. The Sith believe in the elevation of the individual and the subjugation of everybody else. Really and truly, with the Sith, “it’s all about me.”
Q: Did you invent these characters?
A: The concept of the tribe was created by the authors of the “Fate of the Jedi” novels — Aaron Allston, Christie Golden, and Troy Denning. Troy is also from Wisconsin. They came up with the idea of the tribe and the outlines of what their culture would look like in the future. The characters in these stories are ones that I came up with. I filled in the blanks.
Q: Is there a group of editors that checks to make sure everything gels with this fantasy universe?
A: Yes. Lucasfilm actually has a guy whose job it is to manage continuity. His nickname is the Keeper of the Holocron. A Holocron is their word for a “Star Wars” database. His job is to make sure that everything fits. Since I’ve been writing “Star Wars” comics and novels for eight years, I’ve got a pretty fair background for this. I have 10 volumes of a series I did called “Knights of the Old Republic,” which is set in the distant past of the “Star Wars” universe. I also wrote three volumes plus a novel for a series called “Knight Errant,” also set in the distant past. I’ve had the opportunity to research this stuff before.
Q: You seem really immersed in this universe. Do you ever get confused as to where you are in time and space?
A: It is an occupational hazard. Last year I was working on “Star Wars” but also on the comic books for the video game called “Mass Effect.” That’s set in a space opera universe.
Q: Space opera?
A: Space opera is a part of science fiction that deals mainly with ray guns and high adventure, the sort of thing that you would see in the old Saturday morning serials. “Flash Gordon” is the classic space opera. “Star Wars” is referred to as space opera. “Mass Effect” is falling more into hard science fiction than space opera because there’s not the campy elements of it. I would have to try to make sure I had the rules of their universe straight. What sounds do the guns make? What are the guns called? In “Star Wars” they’re called blasters, unless they’re on a starship, then they’re called turbo lasers.
Q: That’s a lot to keep straight.
A: There’s an absolute good reason for it. You don’t want to accidentally use the word “phaser,” for example, which is a “Star Trek” term. The fans would notice that in a heartbeat.
Q: Is there one character from “Star Wars” that you identify with?
A: From the movies? I always liked Lando. When I did the “Knights of the Old Republic” comic series, the two main characters were a young Jedi student accused of a crime he didn’t commit and this little alien con artist guy who involves him in all sorts of swindles. That allowed us to reimagine “Star Wars” as like the movie “The Sting.” I guess I can trace that swindler character back to Han Solo and Lando Calrissian being shady types who end up becoming heroes in spite of themselves.
Q: It sounds like you really enjoy your work.
A: It’s strip-mining my childhood for a living. It’s great to go to conventions and see people who will dress up as your characters. Especially when they’ve flown for miles and miles with these huge outfits.