It was reported today that author Ann C. Crispin has sadly passed away after a long fight against cancer. Ms. Crispin was an accomplished author, but most Star Wars fans will remember her for her Han Solo trilogy of the late 1990’s.
When the Expanded Universe began to seriously unfold in the early 1990’s with the Thrawn books by Timothy Zahn, I dove in with enthusiasm. By the time Episode I came around, I had given up completely. The early books were mostly good but there were quite a few stinkers in there and the market began to become flooded. I wasn’t enjoying the direction things were heading. There were books I thought were excellent, however, and three of those were by Ann C. Crispin.
Han Solo was always my favorite Star Wars character. I enjoyed the Brian Daley books from when I was a kid so I was excited to learn someone else was diving into his background. While some of the details of the books have escaped me over the years, I remember reading the books and enjoying them immensely. I especially liked how they seemed to seamlessly intercept with what we knew, even going as far as to end the trilogy moments before Han’s first on screen appearance in the films.
When the Solo books were all released and I had digested them, I contacted Ms. Crispin and asked if she would do an interview. She happily accepted. The fact that she’d talk to a small fan site at all shows you the kind of person she was. I’m going to re-post the interview here today. We had a great conversation about her books, the characters in them, her research and inspiration, sex in the Expanded Universe, and her feelings on Greedo shooting first, among other things.
Rest in peace, Ann C. Crispin (1950-2013)
10 Questions with Ann C. Crispin (1998)
Ann C. Crispin is the author of several best selling books which include Yesterday’s Son, A Time For Yesterday and The Eyes of the Beholders (All Star Trek Novels). She has co-authored two fantasy books with noted fantasy author Andre Norton and collaborated with several other authors on other projects as well including the novelization of Alien: Resurrection. She has created her own universe with the Starbridge series. The books center around a school for young diplomats, translators and explorers both alien and human located on an asteroid far from Earth. Several books from this series have been recognized as superior reading material for young adults by the American Library Association. Books in this series have also been in consideration for the Nebula award (The top award given by the Sci-fi and fantasy writers of America).
In 1995, Ann produced two short stories for the Bantam Books Star Wars Publishing program: “Play It Again, Figrin D’An” and “Skin Deep” for the Anthologies Tales From The Mos Eisley Cantina and Tales From Jabba’s Palace respectively. These stories led to an invitation to write a new Han Solo trilogy about Solo’s pre-Star Wars:ANH adventures for Lucasfilm/Bantam which are fantastic. Ann is currently busy on the first book of the Avon trilogy, Storms of Destiny and has recently written a Star Trek magazine piece titled “Last Words” for the new magazine Amazing Stories. Look for issue #593 from summer of 1998 for that piece.
Ann is a very busy person these days but she took time out of her schedule to answer a few questions for me and I thank her for that. Here are her answers. Enjoy!
T-Bone: Rebel Dawn has a very “Godfather-like” ending to it. Was this intentional?
Ann C. Crispin: Yes, of course the “Godfather-like” elements at the end of Rebel Dawn were done intentionally. A number of people, including my Bantam editor, and Star Wars author Dan Wallace, have recognized the assassination scene on Ylesia as being “lifted” from The Godfather. The Hutts as crime lords are obviously derived from criminal organizations here on Earth, so naturally the Mafia would be a place to look for inspiration. When I first began writing the Han Solo trilogy I also watched the Godfather films, paying close attention to the “wheels within wheels” attitudes of the characters. Making the Hutts complex enough to be some of the primary antagonists in a trilogy meant I had to flesh out the species, create a lot of background for them. I wound up doing a lot of thinking about how creatures who are basically not very mobile would run a large crime syndicate. I actually came to have a fair amount of respect for Jabba and his brethren — they’re smart, and completely amoral. I found that rather refreshing to write about! I also really enjoyed creating that baby Hutt. The idea of creating a creature so disgusting that even Jabba would be revolted was very amusing.
T: Are there any other references to modern day society in these books?
AC: The most obvious literary or film references are the references to Dickens’ Oliver Twist and the ones I just mentioned regarding The Godfather. When I write I usually do have a theme or subtext in the book, though I am seldom conscious of it when I first begin. In creating Bria Tharen I believe that I was modeling her on modern day “freedom fighters” who at times do despicable things to advance a cause they believe to be just. Just like some factions of the IRA. It was fun to create a Star Wars character in “shades of gray” rather than one who is all black or all white.
T: Traditionally, sex and SW are a ‘no-no’ but you touch on it a few times, referring to characters’ preferences, Hutt reproduction and Solo’s “studliness” among other things. You seem to be taking steps to open up the SW community to the fact that some of these characters ARE alive and humanoid after all. What can you tell me about that?
AC: Lucasfilm is very protective of the ‘PG’ rating for Star Wars, and they are upfront with their authors that any graphic sex is absolutely verboten. I was instructed that romance was fine, but that scenes with characters talking in bed, or any kind of specific reference to them having sex were a no-no. My editor told me, “Hugs and kisses are fine. But don’t go beyond that.” So I didn’t. However, I think I did manage to introduce a more “sensual” element to the books without being overt, and I liked being able to show Han as a guy who had “been around the Galaxy,” so to speak. I don’t for a moment believe that Han was a virgin when he met Princess Leia. Harrison Ford’s portrayal of him indicated to me that he knew just how to charm women to make them fall for him. His scene with Leia aboard the Falcon proved that. “What are you afraid of?” The way he kissed her indicated that he was no inexperienced lad. When I discussed my conclusions with the Lucasfilm licensing reviewer, she agreed with me that Han had had a number of girlfriends before he met Leia. (Brian Daley had even invented several of them.) So, while I may have “pushed the envelope” a bit, I didn’t originate the idea that Han was a “man of the universe.” Anyone who can smile at a woman that way…
T: Was there anything that you had to cut out of the trilogy?
AC: The Star Wars books have to be thoroughly plotted so they can be approved by Lucasfilm before they are written. Therefore I didn’t really have to “cut” anything of significance after writing it, as I had already planned exactly what would be in the books before writing each of them. However, there were scenes I would have liked to have written that I was told to leave alone. For example, I was instructed that I was not to write about Han Solo’s years in the Academy, his military service, or his first meeting (and rescue) of Chewbacca when he was an Imperial slave. I was also told that I could not write about how or why Han received the Corellian bloodstripe. These are the major no-no’s I was given.
T: How difficult did you find it to maintain continuity?
AC: In writing this Star Wars trilogy, I found myself having to do more research than I had ever done before for any of my original writing projects. (Yes, I do write original novels. The Han Solo trilogy was not my first writing project, as many Star Wars fans seem to think…) When I was working on the three books, I often found myself having to consult with the West End Games editors to ask questions about continuity. I would frequently have to write a paragraph, look something up, then write another paragraph, look something more up. As you might imagine, this was very frustrating! It was hard to get up a “flow.” However, by the end of the trilogy project I had so much basic knowledge that the answers to my questions required a lot of digging. I have a whole shelf of Star Wars reference books now, in addition to the other novels, anthologies, radio drama scripts, etc. I also wound up reading old issues of the Marvel comics, Dark Horse comics, etc. I tried very hard to be conscientious with the continuity. It was a big job!
T: Female roles in SW books have been severely limited. Have you received any positive feedback from female SW fans about the abundance of female characters in your books?
AC: Some fans have indicated that they liked my having a lot of female characters. Others, generally the younger male readers, have indicated that they were uncomfortable with having any romance or “softening” plot threads in the books. These young male fans made no bones about what they want in their Star Wars novels: ships blasting at each other, guys blasting at each other, no romance or character angst — and Boba Fett as a near-droid who has no human qualities or emotions whatsoever. Personally, I missed having many female characters in the original movie trilogy, so I was happy to be able to create some. In the 20 years since Star Wars first appeared on the screen, women in the military have become an accepted part of our Nation’s armed forces. I wanted to show the early days of the Rebellion, and I wanted to show that women could be able fighters, too. This probably isn’t quite what Mr. Lucas had in mind, but hey, times change, don’t they?
T: Bria goes through an enormous lifestyle change very similar to Luke Skywalker. He went from farm boy to Jedi in a very short time. She went from slave to ruthless Rebel Commander giving no quarter to slavers. I understand her trials but the ruthless way she kills is pretty harsh. Why is she really like this?
AC: In creating Bria Tharen, I decided that I wanted to create a “dimensional” character who would be capable of doing very dark deeds in order to serve the Greater Good — i.e., the Rebellion. I believe that learning that the Ylesian Priests had tricked her in order to enslave her made Bria very angry, and that her hatred of slavery and all who engaged in it grew out of that. She was a person who was consumed by an ideal — the Rebellion — and also by hatred of slavers. She had seen so many atrocities committed by slavers, during her time with the Rebellion that she became cold and hard, convinced that slavers deserved no mercy. Those emotions altered her emotionally from the girl Han first met, and they shaped her eventual destiny. I wanted Bria to be as conflicted a character as Han Solo, in her own way. I also, of course, had to give the character background for Han as to why he was so negative towards the Rebellion and towards female Rebel leaders. So I chose to give him a history of having been burned by both.
T: Do you have cats? Were they the inspiration for the Togorains?
AC: Yes, I do have cats. But I got the idea to use Togorians out of one of the West End Games manuals about Star Wars aliens. I wanted a creature who was large, and potentially dangerous. Togorians seemed to fit the bill perfectly!
T: Have you seen the Star Wars Special Editions? What’s your opinion on the whole “Greedo shot first” ordeal?
AC: I liked the original scene better, and I do believe that Han was someone who would shoot first when it was obvious it was “kill or be killed.” Anything else is stupid, frankly, given who Han Solo was, and the kind of life he’d led. So I don’t buy the Special Edition revision. Besides, Han didn’t kill Greedo in cold blood. He killed him in self-defense. There’s a big difference!