Sean Williams discusses The Old Republic
The author of the New York Times bestseller The Force Unleashed talks to us about his new Star Wars book Fatal Alliance:
What are your earliest memories of Star Wars?
I was 10 in 1977 when Episode Four came out, and it changed my life. I saw it countless times in the cinema, read the book over and over, listened to the soundtrack until the record wore out, etc etc. 10 is probably the perfect age to have been at that moment in cinematic history, and I happily spent the rest of my teen years growing up with the original trilogy and the unfolding Skywalker saga. To be writing in this universe now, as an adult, is both terrifically exciting and powerfully affirming, because it takes me right back to where my fascination with science fiction started. Star Wars and Doctor Who, in very real ways, shaped who I am today, as well is what I do today, and without them it's hard to imagine how my life might have progressed otherwise.
How does Fatal Alliance tie-in with The Old Republic?
Fatal Alliance is set just before the beginning of The Old Republic game, so it captures the incredible tension existing in the Galaxy at that point in its history, not just between the Jedi and the Sith, but the Mandalorians too, and numerous other groups like smugglers and soldiers and ordinary citizens, caught up in it all. My intention with the novel was to write a story that would reflect the nature of an MMO RPG, which is that anyone can be a hero, anyone can play a major part in the ongoing story. So all the characters, in a sense, are at the beginning of story arcs that would continue through The Old Republic. But the book doesn't contain any spoilers for the game: that was something we all wanted to avoid.
The Force Unleashed is set between Episode III and IV, while the events of the Old Republic take place 3,500 years before Episode 1. How different is the universe between these two stories?
Very different. For a start, the Jedi and the Sith are on a much more even footing. The polarised dynamic of the prequels and the original series just isn't in play, here. The Sith are on the rise but there's no certainty that they're going to win; the Jedi are well-established but their advantage is being eroded. Similarly, the Republic and Empire might look superficially like the ones we know, but the power struggles are different. Episodes three and four show the fall of the Republic and the Empire at its peak. The Old Republic is a much more fluid environment, in which it is not quite so easy to tell black from white. That makes it very exciting to write.
What new characters do you think fans will get excited about in Fatal Alliance?
All of them, I hope! There's something in here for everyone. We couldn't squeeze every character class into the novel as a point of view character, but you do get six distinct stories all tangled up in one overarching plot. So if the Dark Side is your thing, then you'll love Eldon Ax, the Sith apprentice whose family’s backstory is making her life a misery. Or there is Shigar Konshi, Jedi Padawan, whose path to mastery has been a rocky one. There's a smuggler, a trooper, a Mandalorian, and a spy--take your pick--and then there are the secondary characters as well. It really is a cast of thousands set against the largest possible backdrop. That's what it needed to be in order to fully capture The Old Republic experience.
The Force Unleashed was first game tie-in to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. How did it feel when you found out that news?
I was actually very excited, not just for me, but for everybody involved in the process, including my editor and Haden Blackman, the author of the original script. Any tie-in is the result of a long and careful collaborative process, and one based on a computer game even more so. My name was on the cover, and I played a large role in shaping the book as it appeared on the shelves, but its success is not something I can claim for myself. Still, that didn't stop me celebrating, by buying a very expensive bottle of champagne, ordering in pizza, and watching Episode IV with my family. We'll do it again if Fatal Alliance does as well!
Have you played any Star Wars games before?
I have played The Force Unleashed, but I'm more of a PC gamer and a console gamer, so I didn't do very well (alas). My favourite Star Wars games are the Jedi Knight series, which I still pull out every now and again, to get a quick fix of lightsaber action.
Stay tuned for the second part of our interview with Sean Williams and find out more about The Old Republic here: www.swtor.com