Our latest guest has been a regular fixture at Lucasfilm for well over a decade, contributing a vast
swathe of content to all manner of LFL projects, including the official site, official blog, magazines,
Galaxy Guides, HoloNet News, webstrips, Young Readers books and now the Essential Guides with his
latest release The Essential Reader's Companion. Please welcome back to the site Pabawan
himself, Pablo Hidalgo
JN - Pablo, welcome back to Jedi News.
PH - Thanks, it’s good to be back.
JN - Your latest Star Wars project is The Essential Reader's Companion,
which pulls together over 35 years worth of written Star Wars content into one chronologically
organised guide. So, before starting the book how deep a breath did you take - that's a LOT of content
PH - I admit I plunged in rather blindly. It was not until the first chapter was written that
I got a true sense of how big an undertaking this was going to be.
JN - There must have been some tricky decisions to be made putting that amount of Star
Wars literature into order. What criteria did you choose upon to decide whether or not a book or
story would make it into the guide?
PH - As I said, that first chapter was a testing ground for how inclusive we were to be. I
took that Old Republic-era chapter and wrote summaries not only for the novels, but also all
the comics in that era and quickly discovered that such an approach would end up way too big. I went
through nearly half my allocated page count by being that inclusive.
That told us a couple of things. First, the book would need to be bigger. And second, we couldn’t
include comics. At that point, we got more specific as to what we were going to include. We knew the
backbone was going to be adult novels – and that would account for over 140 entries in the book. We
wanted short stories as well, as they often tied into the novels. I know a lot of readers really love
the Jude Watson books from Scholastic Inc., so we couldn’t exclude those, but we decided not to include
books on the really young end of the literature section. So young adult books intended for ages 12 and
up made the cut, but children’s books like Fuzzy as an Ewok or Watch Out, Jar Jar!
would have to sit it out.
Books with variable stories (Choose Your Own Adventure types) were left out, as was fiction
baked into game material – like many of the fiction sidebars in the old roleplaying game, or the
Star Wars Adventures works. But in several cases, when notable, we gave some of this material a
sidebar spotlight – the Jedi Prince series, The Farlander Papers and DarkStryder
Campaign, for example, are works that weren’t afforded a formal entry, but still warranted some
level of inclusion.
JN - Why the decision not to include comics in the Companion?
PH - Mostly it was space and time. One function of this book was to introduce new readers to
the Expanded Universe, which meant keeping the book affordable was a priority. Including comics would
have made this book very big, and perhaps very daunting for that segment of the audience. Also, Dark
Horse did a great job with their Comics Companion, though that is several years out of date
JN - With Star Wars stories being added literally every week, where did you decide
to draw the line in terms of additions to the guide?
PH - When the book’s final release date was settled upon – October 2012 – we decided to aim
to the end of 2012. Which means the book includes The Old Republic: Annihilation, “The Last
Battle of Colonel Jace Malcom” and Scoundrels, even though they are just coming out, or
will come out later this year. They were included even though those works weren’t finished yet, so the
Companion has to be a bit vaguer on details in those instances.
Already, though, I know there’s a 2012 project coming out by year’s end that won’t be in the book –
Tim Zahn’s “Winner Lose All” story that will be a digital exclusive
JN - Taking a step back and looking at the Star Wars literary chronology, do you
notice big stylistic changes from stories written in different era's? For example, a classic A New
Hope story written in 1978 compared to one written in 2012?
PH - I was surprised by the paucity of classic era material. I mean, I knew it going in, but
seeing it directly compared to the output in other eras was still surprising. That era is largely
dominated by the comics. There are very few novels set around the classic trilogy, though Del Rey is
working to add more to that era.
I have to admit, I have a very strong preference for the way the early EU reads, largely for
nostalgia’s sake. But I admire the way authors like Brian Daley and L. Neil Smith had to be inventive,
since they didn’t have a shelf full of essential guides to pluck from. So they had to create species,
cultures and technology rather than use Rodians, Niktos, and Weequays all the time.
JN - Would your expectation be for there to be additions and updates to the Companion? For
example, the frankly marvellous Essential Atlas had an online companion - would that be
appropriate for the Essential Readers Companion?
PH - It’s too early to say, but I’d be open to it and Del Rey does a great job at listening
to readers and seeing what people may be interested in. Let’s see how this book does and what kind of
feedback it attracts.
JN - You certainly put a smile on my face when recently mentioning Jessa from the original
Han Solo trilogy as being a character you wish we'd seen more of. Along that vein, what other
characters would you like to see come back and what worlds do you feel we have not explored enough as
PH - I wouldn’t mind reading about whatever became of Halla. Or reading about comics-
originated characters Rik Duel, Dani and Chihdo in prose. I still think the Podracer pilots could be
mined for some hilarious short stories.
As a fan of the old West End Games roleplaying game, I think creating a new band of rookie Rebels
undertaking special missions whose stories occasionally intersect with the main heroes would be great.
The 501st have their Zahn “Hand of Judgment” books. Let’s give something for the Rebel Legion
to rally behind.
JN - When was the idea of a readers companion first proposed?
PH - It predated my involvement, so I’m not sure. I saw it listed as The Essential Guide
to Fiction as a planned title in an internal schedule some time in 2009. I was approached to write
it in early 2010.
JN - You have been fortunate enough to have a bunch of amazing artists including Jeff
Carlisle, Chris Trevas, Chris Scalf, Brian Rood, Darren Tan and Joe Corroney illustrate the
Companion. Clearly this adds tremendous depth to the book, helping us visualise the various
characters and worlds within, but did anything the artists produce surprise you?
PH - The artists all really did a fantastic job. I wasn’t sure how the illustration that Chris
Scalf did for Red Harvest would turn out – such a bizarre idea of a zombie riding around inside
a zombie tauntaun. It looks great. I can picture the stop-motion jitteriness of the scene as if it’s
from a mid-‘80s horror movie.
JN - Given you have only just finished the project, would the thought of a Essential
Readers Companion sequel in a few years time fill you with dread or joy?
PH - I’d be happy if the book was deemed a success, but I say that willfully ignoring the
idea of the work involved.
JN - Thanks for being our guest here at Jedi News, we really appreciate it.
PH - Clear skies!
Many thanks to Greg Kubie at Random House
for helping to arrange the interview. You can visit Pablo at the Official Star Wars
Pablo Hidalgo Interview Copyright 2012 Jedi News. No part of this interview can be reproduced without
prior written consent from Jedi News.