Ricky Church reports from the Lucasfilm Publishing panel at Star Wars Celebration…
It goes without saying that Star Wars Celebration was rife with news of various media from the galaxy far, far away. Between The Rise of Skywalker, The Mandalorian, Vader Immortal and the comics Marvel announced, fans were spoiled on Star Wars news. During Celebration, Lucasfilm Publishing revealed quite a bit of news on what fans can expect for upcoming books over the next several months, including Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice, Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn – Treason, Delilah Dawson’s theme park tie-in Galaxy’s Edge – Black Spire and several more.
Yesterday marked the release of Claudia Gray’s Master & Apprentice, the latest novel that focuses on the relationship between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi a few years before The Phantom Menace. One of Gray’s dreams has been to write a story revolving around Qui-Gon and she was able to get her wish. The book examines a particularly tumultuous time in Obi-Wan’s training where Qui-Gon actually doubted whether or not they were truly a good fit together. On why the enigmatic Jedi was so special to her, Gray said “I really connected with that character a lot in The Phantom Menace. That’s one of the reasons that really still brings me back to that movie because he was a Jedi unlike any we’d seen before. He was a little different. He was listening to his own take on things and it intrigued me. This was a guy who seems very much in touch with the Force. It was another writer who brought this up, but I always thought it was so great, to point out in the final battle, the Duel of the Fates, when they’re all sealed off by force fields Qui-Gon props down and meditates. There’s no anger, there’s no fear, he’s completely free of that. I found it really inspiring.”
One element Master & Apprentice touches on is Qui-Gon’s rather difficult relationship with the Jedi Council, particularly one line from Phantom Menace where Obi-Wan referenced his master possibly being on the Council himself. Gray wanted to explore the decision Qui-Gon made to ultimately not join the Council, something most Padawans and Knights aspire to. “This was a tough book to write partly because in my heart of hearts all I wanted to do was write a five-volume biography of Qui-Gon Jinn, which strangely is not on the publishing schedule!” Gray said, explaining that the reason why she explored this moment in his life was to answer “What is the most critical thing about him? What is something about him that is so significant and so important that it plays into that decision? It’s kind of a turning point for characters and relationships you see later so it was interesting to go back and ask what would be really so fundamental in terms of turning him away from that invite to the Council.”
As to the relationship between the master and apprentice, “They’re not doing so great,” Grey revealed. “I have a thing in there where Qui-Gon is like ‘Why do we have this huge change in Padawans’ lives right when they hit adolescence? Why do we throw that at them when everything is fraught?’ and Yoda’s like ‘You should be worried if there aren’t problems’. But it’s gone on a little bit too long. Obi-Wan is somebody who believes in the rules. He doesn’t follow them because they are rules, he follows them because he believes that and in following that wisdom. Qui-Gon is not that guy. They’re fundamentally very different. They do respect each other, but I thought it would be interesting to see how they become a unified team.”
Along the lines of the Prequels is a story from Ahsoka‘s E.K. Johnston on the Naboo queen-turned-senator Padmé Amidala. Queen’s Shadow, which is already out in stores, takes place during Padmé’s transition from Queen to her first forays on Coruscant as a senator and the curiosity and suspicion many regard her with thanks to her pivotal role in ousting Chancellor Valorum. More than that, though, Queen’s Shadow also places a significant amount of attention on Padmé’s royal handmaidens and their own training to be her doubles. Writing a story centred around Padmé was something Johnston wanted to do long before she even wrote Ahsoka.
“The Phantom Menace came out on my 15th birthday,” said Johnston, explaining how Padmé became such an important character to her. “There was this girl who had friends and they were all good at so many things, and could also shoot people and punch them and stuff I deeply admired, all while wearing fantastic outfits. I was like ‘these girls have it all’. For the next 20 years, most of my Star Wars friends also had that moment watching The Phantom Menace, but there wasn’t a ton of official shenanigans for her. So getting to go into that backstory and explore all the things we’d been theorizing about for years was fun to piece all together and see what I was actually allowed to do. It was awesome to bond with this character since I liked her so much.”
As for Padmé’s loyal handmaidens, Johnston said “I love the idea of this group of girls who save their planet when they’re fourteen-ish and I love the idea they consistently outsmart everyone around them by 1) being very smart and 2) playing off people’s expectations. When Padmé shows up in this amazingly ridiculous gown everyone’s like ‘oh she must be some sort of puppet queen, not a true person would wear this dress, where is the real power’ and so they’ll say things around her and her handmaidens that they probably shouldn’t and that’s how she sort of takes advantage of people’s perception of her. I love that idea of these girls working together coming up with this persona that they could use to not only rule their own planet, but save it.”
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