Essay

May the Fourth Be With You: The Empire Talks Back

We got Star Wars author Timothy Zahn to share his thoughts on writing about a galaxy far, far away.

May the Fourth

Did you ever watch a great science fiction movie or TV show and think how great it would be to write more adventures in that universe? You probably have.

I didn’t. Ever. Because it never occurred to me that something like that would even be possible.

So I watched the Star Wars movies—many, many times—and let myself be transported to that Galaxy Far, Far Away. And after the credits rolled, I went back to creating my own worlds and characters and trying to build my career.

Still, somewhere in the back of my mind I continued to wonder if there would ever be any more Star Wars.

And then came November 1989, and that career-upside-down-turning phone call from my agent. There would indeed be a bit more Star Wars, at least in written form. (Little did any of us know … ) And of all people, I was being offered the chance to write some of it.

So what was it like to go from fan to author?

It was exciting. It was also terrifying, exhilarating, and occasionally frustrating. There were upsides and downsides and sideways-sides.

What were the upsides, you ask? There were lots. Here are a few.


George Lucas Mark Hamill Carrie Fisher

1. I got to play in George Lucas’s sandbox.

Even back then it was a huge sandbox, full of wonderful toys, worlds, and characters. Now, of course, after the prequel movies, the Clone Wars series, and a myriad of games, comics, and other novels, it’s grown exponentially bigger. There’s more fun, more complexity, more potential for new stories, and basically more of everything that makes Star Wars what it is.

And not only did I get to use George’s toys, I got to create some of my own. That was one of the biggest kicks of all.

2. I got to meet and work with other authors.

Some were older and wiser and more established than I was. Some were young and eager and just starting to make their mark in the world of science fiction. All of them were wonderful, talented, and very kind. Some of those working relationships have become enduring friendships.

3. I get to meet fan groups.

From the 501st to the Rebel Legion to the Mandalorian Mercs to everyone else—if it’s a part of Star Wars, there’s an enthusiastic fan group dedicated to it.

And not just dedicated to Star Wars, but also dedicated to making the world around them a better place. They run charity events, visit children’s hospitals, march in parades, and generally serve their communities. They’re also present at virtually every convention or event I attend, always right at the center of a group of excited fans.

And speaking of fans …

Star Wars Celebration

4. I get to meet Star Wars fans!

Lots of them, from everywhere. I’ve been to Canada, Australia, Germany, San Marino, Brazil, and pretty much every corner of the United States. I’ve met literally thousands of people, all of them united by their common love of Star Wars and their excitement about what lies in store for the GFFA.

Hmm. I see that I’m running out of time for this post, and I haven’t yet gotten around to listing any downsides of working with Star Wars.

But that’s okay. Because I was just kidding earlier. There aren’t any downsides.

Happy Star Wars Day and may the force be with you!


Timothy ZahnTimothy Zahn is a New York Times–bestselling science fiction author of more than forty novels, as well as many novellas and short stories. Best known for his contributions to the expanded Star Wars universe of books, including the Thrawn trilogy, Zahn won a 1984 Hugo Award for his novella “Cascade Point. He also wrote the Cobra series, the Blackcollar series, the Quadrail series, and the young adult Dragonback series, whose first novel, Dragon and Thief, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Zahn currently resides in Oregon with his family.


Photos courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.

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