I LOVE this book.
I truly believe there are pivotal moments in a reader’s life; specific books that awaken something within you and makes you realize I am a reader, and this is going to be an integral part of my life from now on.
While Star Wars: Heir to the Empire wasn’t the first of those books, it was definitely a part of what makes me me.
First off, it’s Star Wars. Star Wars!. I won’t say the original trilogy make up the most important cinema ever, but I think the original trilogy makes up the most important cinema ever.
But it’s more than Star Wars, if that makes sense–it’s beyond Star Wars. Timothy Zahn got to do what every fan was hoping would happen–he took us to that galaxy far, far away and continued the story of Luke, Han, Leia and company. In addition, he introduced one of the great villains in literature, Admiral Thrawn (perhaps one of the only blue characters in any story to be legitimately intimidating).
Oh yeah, he created Mara Jade, too.
For someone who never wanted Star Wars to end (and who now has the privilege to work on Star Wars novels today), Heir is always going to have a special place in my heart.
Heir to the Empire launched the Star Wars book program, and below Timothy Zahn talks about writing the novel, while former Spectra editor talks about the the book and the Star Wars books in general. Finally, art director Jamie Warren talks about working on the cover.
(I’m actually fidgeting in my seat right now, I’m so excited remembering this book)
On Monday, November 6, 1989, at just after four in the afternoon, I got an unexpected call from my agent. After the usual pleasantries, he dropped the bombshell: Bantam Spectra was going to be publishing three brand-new Star Wars books, and they were offering me the chance to write them.
Nowadays, that might not be seen as such a surprise. After all, there are a lot of Star Wars books out there, with more being published all the time. It’s still a huge honor to be invited to play in that universe, of course, but it’s not as unique as it once was.
It was different back in 1989. It was six years after Return of the Jedi, with no more Star Wars movies in sight. No Star Wars novels had been written for some time. No Star Wars novels had ever been written about events after Jedi. No one even knew whether or not there were any Star Wars fans left out there.
It’s been said that everyone wants to be the first to be second. That is, everyone wants to jump on a profitable bandwagon once someone else proves that there is, in fact, a profitable bandwagon to be jumped onto. Not so Bantam Spectra in 1989. They were willing to be the first to be first: to take the chance, to risk putting time and money into Heir to the Empire, to recognize the distinct possibility that the entire trilogy might die a quiet and ignominious death on the book racks.
In hindsight, we see that they had little to worry about. The Star Wars fans were out there, all right, millions and millions of us, eager for the chance to once again visit the Galaxy Far, Far Away. And we still are.
It’s with great pleasure that I look back on that time, and remember the opportunity that was offered to me. And I’m delighted to have this chance to once again thank the people of Bantam Spectra for the trust they put in me on that November afternoon over twenty years ago.
Sometimes it really is best to be the first to be first.
–Timothy Zahn, June 2010
I was the head writer in the cover copy department the day Lou Aronica whipped through the revolving door at 666 Fifth Avenue with this huge grin on his face. Lou’s a pleasant-enough guy, but just then he looked like Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain. What ho, bro? “We’re going to publish original Star Wars novels. I just signed ‘em up.”
This was 1990 or so. The Star Wars franchise felt a little historical (think about it: not much had happened since Return of the Jedi in 1983). Even I was skeptical. But here was Gene Kelly, stomping in the puddles.
A few months later, Lou and editor Betsy Mitchell asked me to write some flap copy without reading the book. Super secret. All I knew was that they’d hired a top-notch author, Hugo winner Timothy Zahn. Make it feel like an event. Betsy added a sentence or two regarding the plot. More people have read that copy than anything else I’ve ever written in my life.
Heir to the Empire ignited a huge pent-up demand for more stories in the Star Wars universe. It was an instant, rabid hit. Customers were actually helping booksellers open cartons and racing the books to the cash register. We’d given Heir a bargain hardcover price to kick off the trilogy we owned, but that turned out to be utterly unnecessary. It went straight to #1 and stayed there. It has to be Spectra’s biggest single bestseller, even today.
Heir affected me in two important ways: one professionally, one as a propeller-beanie-wearing fan. A couple of years later, Betsy found a great opportunity elsewhere, and I – by that time a Spectra editor myself – kind of inherited the Star Wars property as part of my list. I edited fifteen or twenty books over the next five years, all with people who were credible sf writers first, and Star Wars fans second. I loved it, loved the authors, loved the Lucasfilm folks. Despite a few rough, nail-chewing, deadline-sweating spots which time has now mercifully sanded away, it was a real pleasure to work on STAR WARS, and they paid me for it too! How great is that?
Secondly, the response to Heir to the Empire directly began the chain of events which led to three more Star Wars movies. Without Heir, they wouldn’t exist: even Lucasfilm agrees to that. Kids, never try to tell me books can’t make a difference. The guy stomping in the puddles at 666 knew it. Now I’m a believer, too.
–Tom Dupree, Editor
Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn was the first book following a magnificent idea of Lou Aronica’s, who went to George Lucas with the concept of original books based in the Star Wars universe. I still remember being completely excited about the idea. When I was brought in to work on the cover, I met with Lucy Wilson who worked for Lucasfilm; Lucy had been with George Lucas since the beginning of the first Star Wars film. Lucy brought with her a poster of all their movie posters, and told me to use one of the artists that had worked on Star Wars art already. We chose the Star Wars poster which was credited to Tom Jung. I even personally met with Tom to discuss the project, which was to be a trilogy. The books took off like rockets in the book stores and Bantam continued doing not only original hardcovers, but original mass markets, and original short story collections. The covers were all great fun to do, and I even got to see Skywalker Ranch in person! Wow, did I love my job then!
–Jamie S. Warren, Art Director
To see the complete list, click here