To ring in the new era of Star Wars storytelling that starts with A New Dawn, author John Jackson Miller and his local Barnes and Nobel got together to host a launch event for the novel. Having seen Miller at a Star Wars Reads Day event last year, I knew the fans assembled would be in for a great time and again, he didn’t disappoint. Sometimes the intimidation factor with 501st members standing over your shoulder helps.
Unlike Reads Day last year, this Barnes and Noble didn’t have a huge space for such an event, instead hosting it just outside the in-store cafe. A small portion of the crowd had to stand, but everyone was close enough that Miller didn’t even need to use a microphone (though I don’t think his vocal cords will be happy with him). The store manager was definitely amongst the fans, noticeably geeking out a bit, which was great to see and helped make our little corner of the store feel more welcoming.
However, it’s John Jackson Miller’s personality and presence which go the longest way to making this event fun for fans. There’s been other author’s I’ve seen, both in person at events like these or videos of their appearances, where they show why they aren’t actors and instead novelists. That’s not the the case with Miller, who has lots of funny and engaging stories to tell about his past covering how he went from writing about lumber, Iron Man, and now his present day career. It’s easy to understand why he’s got such a knack for engaging and relatable characters because he is one himself. Just about a half-hour before the launch event, his story about said history went live on the Star Wars blog, and it’s worth a read as it covers some of what you would have heard in person from him.
The important thing he stressed throughout the event was the Legends vs new Canon mindset a lot of fans have and how unnecessary it is. You can still love the EU of old, whether it’s Legends or not, because it still exists and you can still read them. If they meant something to you, then they certainly still can. He went on to say that a lot of our own Head Canon, where what we personally perceive in our head is canon with something or not, is all you really need as a guide. Hilariously enough for Miller’s Head Canon, both Rocky IV and V didn’t happen because Apollo Creed could never die, and Alien 3 might as well have been a fluke. If you think it’s important, then you can it so for youself because (and he made a big show of this with his arms) it’s all made up anyways (or so he thinks…).
The Q&A had it’s up and downs, with some of the questions leading Miller to retread some of his recent interviews online. However, most the audience probably hasn’t read said interviews and since his answers are very informative, it was good those there heard them. In regards to something I saw in his interview at Eleven-ThirtyEight.com, I asked him if there was other EU terms besides refresher (restroom) and turbolift (elevator) that were being changed in an attempt to be more accessible to new readers. While he didn’t have any other terms to name, the sound reasoning that Star Wars doesn’t need to sound ‘outerspacey,’ which those terms were trying to do, makes sense for changing them going forward.
Another question led Miller to clarify how as he went to Lucasfilm/Del Rey to pitch a Rebels prequel, A New Dawn‘s story, setting, and new characters (not from Star Wars Rebels) were 99% him, meaning AND staying locally on Gorse for the grand majority of the novel was all his doing. He discussed how the Lucasfilm Story Group, including Dave Filoni, (even before the Legends and new canon announcement) had given him the show’s story bible and worked closely with him on how both Kanan and Hera would’ve reacted to each other and the events of a story in that time period of their lives. Miller makes it seem like having the Story Group looking over your shoulder is as little of a hindrance as it was in the the older days of the EU.
Here’s a few other things:
- As for the diversity present in the novel, like Captain Rae Sloane is a black woman and there’s a whole squad of female stormtroopers, it wasn’t planned. He simply didn’t see an in-universe reason to continue the old EU’s sexist/racist Empire. As Miller puts it, the Emperor would be an equal opportunity tyrant!
- One of his Iron Man characters made it into the films, mainly because one of his artists had a fan in Jon Favreau, the director.
- He’s finally been able to use his Soviet studies to good use, which had him looking at how Russia made an agriculture-heavy society into a military one in 20 years, much like the Empire taking the Republic from trade-heavy to military-churning monster in 20 years is shown in AND (which he talks more about in his interview with the DailyDot)
- Don’t forget to visit John Jackson Miller’s website, FarawayPress.com, for great behind the scenes content on all his works, with AND‘s BTS content to be up “soon.” He’s always posted some photos of the event on his Twitter.
- As usual, big shout out and thanks for some of the Wisconsin Garrison of the 501st to make appearances. They added the final ingredient to providing a fun atmosphere.
One of the great things about these events is the opportunity to meet fans from all walks of life, and while the crowd and venue area wasn’t large, there was a good variety of fans old and young. I also had the opportunity to meet the US correspondent of Jedi News, Mark Zachacki (and his wife) who I admittedly almost thought was going to be Mark Newbold when he said which site he writes for, though I imagine he gets that a lot. He had an audio interview with JJM scheduled which I’ll update this article with a link to once it goes live. While he and his wife made the 3 or so hour drive up to Appleton, WI from Chicago, mostly everyone else I met hailed from Milwaukee like me (next time we’ll have to plan ahead and carpool for something like this). One of the Milwaukeeans was Steven Greenwood (who can be seen behind 501st “Jolly Roger Squadron” member Briana Peterson in my first ever selfie), a co-founder of Wookieepedia (!) of all things, so it was kind of like meeting a celebrity. He’s someone I have to thank for all the help that site gave me in the early years of my EU reading, as I started the New Jedi Order after reading the Thrawn Trilogy, so of course there was a lot of background info I was missing. This is why any fan should make an attempt to go to any event nearby, because you’ll never know who you can meet or the friends you can make. Or the funny things you can see:
Canon Novel Review: Star Wars: A New Dawn
Del Rey’s Star Wars 2014 Sampler Thoughts
Legends Novel Review: Star Wars: Kenobi
Star Wars Comic-Con Plans and A New Dawn Launch Event
Star Wars Reads Day Author Event: John Jackson Miller