Critiquing Star Wars Novels vs. The Insider Short Stories

Last week, I read a provocative tweet from Jason Hamilton, a fellow StarWars.com contributor that piqued my curiosity and prompted me to respond:

Based in Provo, Utah, Jason is a blogger and podcaster who is well versed in the short stories published in the Star Wars Insider and has read all the canon Star Wars novels to date. This past Saturday, I Skyped him to get a little more on what was behind his tweet. His observations follow after the break.

Dak: What were you getting at with your comment?

Jason Hamilton: Every one of the Star Wars Insider short stories deals with original characters. I’m thinking in particular of one great story that dealt with the destruction of the Death Star and the effect it had on a TIE fighter squadron. They were good characters that were easy to identify and connect with. They were obscure characters in an obscure part of the Star Wars universe. They weren’t interacting with or associated with the main characters of the films, Vader, Luke, etc., so the author had more freedom to create a significant story for those characters that didn’t affect the universe as a whole.

Dak: And how is that different from the novels in your view?

JH: The novels are a direct tie-in to the films and the bigger timelines and characters. So the authors can’t write stories that are significant.

Dak: What do you mean by significant?

JH: Heir to the Jedi was used to explain how Luke could use the Force in The Empire Strikes Back. I think the premise wasn’t big enough for a novel. That single plot explanation could have been condensed to a short story. But on the other hand, if you expanded an original short-story characters to a novel, then you’d have the freedom to go in any direction, and I think I’d be more invested in the story.

Dak: I’m still a little bothered by your use of the term significant.

JH: With Luke and Tarkin, for example, we know where their stories are going. So there’s not much you can say in Heir to the Jedi about Luke that we don’t already know. So there’s not much character development. The connection to the films and the canon ties the author’s hands. Whereas with the Insider short stories, authors like Jason Fry, for example, have free rein to explore things.

Dak: So, what prompted you to do the tweet?

JH: I’ve found recently that fans of the old Expanded Universe, now Legends, want books that matter. I’ve had this discussion with several EU fans. The novels, A New Dawn, Tarkin, Heir to the Jedi and Lords of the Sith, which I am now reading, are all really well written, but they are too self-contained.

Dak: But isn’t that what you said was a good thing about the Insider short stories?

JH: I did. But what I mean about the novels being too self-contained is that as canon, they cannot affect the plot of the movies. So that is limiting, at least for my involvement as a reader. And I think that’s what a lot of the fans of the old EU are now having trouble with.

Dak: Ok, Jason. I get your point now. Thanks for elaborating.

JH: Sure. I look forward to meeting you at Anaheim.

Dak: I’ll be around.

John 'Dak' Morton
John portrayed Dak Ralter, Luke Skywalker’s Gunner during the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back. When Jeremy Bulloch played an Imperial Officer, he needed someone to cover him as Fett. Morton being similar in height was a body double for two days in costume. He filmed with another unit, the sequence when Fett confronts Darth Vader in the Bespin hallway during Han Solo’s torture – while Bulloch filmed his scenes as the Imperial Officer. Afterwards he left Hollywood and eventually settled in public relations work back in Annapolis.