EU Action/Reaction Column: The Return of Stackpole?

Recently, a petition has been making the rounds, encouraging Del Rey to bring back fan favorite author Michael A. Stackpole. Despite the fact that eleven years have passed since his last entry into the Star Wars Expanded Universe (he penned the New Jedi Order’s Dark Tide duology, the second and third entries to the sprawling series), fans continuously ask when he is going to write his next Star Wars book. This year’s Dragon*Con was no exception.

Asking for Stackpole’s return is nothing new, but could now be the time that it actually happens? Consider that the much-loved X-Wing series is returning in a major way next summer with Mercy Kill, Aaron Allston’s new Wraith Squadron novel. Del Rey has a major social media presence with their Star Wars Books Facebook page, where they have a history of asking fans about their favorite EU novels, scenes, and even what fans would like to see in future books. More than ever, Del Rey seems willing to take fan suggestions to heart.

So why not bring back a fan-favorite author? Stackpole has said he is more than willing to write another Star Wars novel, and fans would be there to buy it. If there is something going on behind the scenes at Del Rey that is preventing Stackpole’s return, fans are not aware of it. Contracting Stackpole to write another EU novel seems like a no-brainer, and would be a huge benefit to the Galaxy Far, Far Away.


Why Stackpole’s Return is Important for the Expanded Universe

Many authors have written for the EU, so why the focus on Stackpole? The simple answer is that Stackpole’s return would address concerns about the direction of the recent post-Return of the Jedi EU. How so, you ask? For that, let’s look at the long answer.

1. Stackpole has a proven track record in expanding the GFFA.

Stackpole's first Star Wars novel, X-Wing: Rogue Squadron was published in 1996.

Stackpole’s first novel in the Star Wars universe was X-Wing: Rogue Squadron, which expanded a simple plot idea from The Empire Strikes Back and The Thrawn Trilogy into an entire series of novels. With the recent focus on nine book series, many fans feel that the galaxy has gotten too “small.” During the Bantam era the Big Three were featured in all the main novels, but the X-Wing series featured a compelling side plot (which some people enjoyed more than the main novels!). Say what you will about the New Jedi Order as a series, but the era had a large cast of characters to play with and did a good job at introducing the new generation to the forefront. With the return to standalones and trilogies in the near future, it seems like the perfect time to expand the galaxy even more by introducing new characters, planets, aliens, and plots that don’t involve Sith. Who’d be the perfect author to do this? Why Stackpole, of course, whose influence on the New Republic era is second only to Timothy Zahn.

2. Stackpole has created compelling characters, several of whom are still active in current-era novels.

One of the most common complaints about the novels in the Legacy era is the dearth of young, compelling characters. There are some new Jedi Knights featured in Fate of the Jedi, but most of them have gone crazy to fit the current plot. What greater way to expand the cast of characters than hand Stackpole a contract for a new novel? Many fans are already anticipating the characters that Allston will introduce in Mercy Kill. Imagine what Stackpole would do if given another Rogue Squadron book? This is the man, after all, who created Corran Horn, Tycho Celchu, Ysanne Isard, Soontir Fel, and Jagged Fel, current Head of State of the Galactic Empire. Which leads me to…

3. There are stories begging to be told, and we know that Stackpole can tell them.

Along with the obvious—a new Rogue Squadron book to accompany Mercy Kill—there are numerous other stories for Stackpole to tell. His own creation, Jagged Fel, is leader of the Empire and future husband (presumably) to Jaina Solo. It’s been confirmed by the Legacy comics that he will become Emperor, and his children will perpetuate the Fel dynasty.

Which makes me wonder why haven’t we gotten a Jag Fel standalone book yet?

Say what you will about the character, but he is important to the Legacy era. He’s been featured prominently in Fate of the Jedi, but his importance demands his own book or trilogy. Considering Stackpole created the character and also insinuated the future Jaina/Jag relationship, wouldn’t he be a great choice for a Fel novel? He wrote Union, the comic that featured the wedding of Luke and Mara Jade Skywalker—would he be willing to pen the tale of the Solo-Fel wedding as well?

And there are not only stories about Jagged Fel begging to be told, but also Soontir Fel, Jag’s father. Recently featured in Timothy Zahn’s novella Crisis of Faith, Soontir has a long and complex storyline detailed mostly in the Rogue Squadron comics. And despite his importance as father of the future Emperor, he has been featured in relatively few novels.

Which baffles me, because Soontir Fel is one of the most compelling characters in the entire EU, starting as a TIE fighter pilot and marrying holostar Wynnsa Starflare (aka Syal Antilles, sister to Wedge), then defecting to the New Republic and serving with Rogue Squadron, and eventually joining the Empire of the Hand. We’ve only gotten glimpses of this story told throughout other novels, which seems wrong to me. And with Jagged’s importance to the Galactic Empire and his engagement to Jaina Solo, I can’t help but miss the elder Fel’s inclusion in the storyline. After all, Han and Soontir apparently despised each other when they attended the Imperial Academy. This seems like too great a plot point to exclude!

Stackpole recently stated that Soontir is the character he’s most proud of, and would be more than willing to write more stories about him. To which I respond: give this man a contract! Comics, novels—I’d read either, or both, of them.

But it’s not just the Fels that demand more attention. The next generation of Rebels—the Horn and Antilles children—could also command their own novels. Myri Antilles, youngest daughter of Wedge, has already been confirmed as a Wraith in Mercy Kill. The Legacy of the Force series showed her older sister, Syal, as an X-wing pilot—why not tell the stories of her adventures in Rogue Squadron? Rogue Squadron worked once as a series, why couldn’t it happen again? Or perhaps Syal could start her own squadron, as her father once did.

And then there are the Horn children, Valin and Jysella. Corran Horn, their father, is arguably Stackpole’s most popular creation. Corran is currently a member of the Jedi Council, while his children are just a tiny bit crazy. Even so, I found myself really enjoying their relationship and banter in Conviction, and they have the potential to be great Jedi Knights. This made me long for their inclusion in later novels, when they’re sane. We already know that Stackpole can tell good Jedi stories, so why not write the adventures of the next generation of Horns? Brother and sister, working together as Jedi, similar to the Solo kids but with a much happier outcome? That sounds like fun to me, especially if the Horn children have inherited their mother’s snark! And Valin and Jysella are both of the age where they could get married and have children, which would lead to even more compelling characters in the future!

Four story ideas that we know Stackpole can tell. But other authors can write those stories as well, so why Stackpole? Why’s he so important?

4. He compels an audience and adds legitimacy to the EU.

Stackpole's I, Jedi remains the only Star Wars novel written completely in first-person.

At Dragon*Con, fans were just as excited to see Stackpole as they were to see Allston and Zahn, two authors who have been steadily writing EU novels over the past 11 years. His books are still popular among fans, and many people will argue that the X-Wing series demonstrates the proper way to execute a nine-book series, with two authors working in tandem, sharing ideas, and keeping a narrow focus on minor characters and their fight against the Empire. I, Jedi shows that you can have a book with a sprawling plot that is still focused and lacks fluff. A new Rogue Squadron novel, written by Stackpole, would be just as important to EU fans as a new Mara Jade or Grand Admiral Thrawn book written by Zahn.

5. The fans want it.

And that, my friends, is the most important reason for Stackpole’s return. There’s no doubt that EU readers would clamor to have Stackpole write a new Star Wars book, no matter what the subject. We’ve been demanding it for many years, and just like with a new Zahn novel, Stackpole’s name alone would incite sales. And most importantly, a new Stackpole book would have the potential to bring discouraged fans back to the EU. No matter what your opinion about the current novels, bringing back former readers is never a bad thing.

Bring Back the Old to Get with the New

So there you have it—five reasons for Stackpole’s return to the EU. The petition has been gaining steam, and we hope that, if you agree with us, you’ll take the time to sign it and pass it on to other fans. And you can always go to the Star Wars Books Facebook page to voice your support for Stackpole’s return. Don’t forget to also visit Stackpole’s website or Twitter feed and show your support.

There have always been complaints about the EU, no matter what the era or series currently being published. But focusing on the negative will never incite change. Stackpole is one of the brightest spots in the EU, and bringing him back would satisfy many fans who have been discouraged over the years. It would excite fans who have never stopped reading the EU. And who knows, it might also bring in completely new readers.

So in conclusion, I say to you, Del Rey:

The slingball is in your court.

-Nanci

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