As fans we know the Expanded Universe of Star Wars is not only massive, it is ever-growing. Because of this, guides to the galaxies are needed and made ever few years to keep fans up-to-date. Combining both the Essential Guide to Planets and Moons as well as the Chronology, authors Daniel Wallace & Jason Fry, as well as artist Chris Trevas tried to make the best of both worlds in their biggest installment, “The Essential Atlas.”
Below we talk with Jason, Daniel, as well as Chris about the giant project, the maps, the history, and much more behind “The Essential Atlas.” Sit back, relax, and enjoy the interview.
EUCantina.net (EUC): Greetings all and welcome to the site!
Jason Fry (JF): Thanks- nice to be here!
EUC: So, thank you all for joining me to discuss the amazing Essential Atlas! How excited are you all to have it out?
JF: After all the years working on it, we’re thrilled that it’s out — because now we can talk about it.
Daniel Wallace (DW): Very excited to have the Atlas out now, but as we’ve planned, it’s not really finished! It’s designed at least in part as a living document, so more updates and corrections will come in digital format.
JF: Yes — the map of the Outer Rim sectors went up today. That one was a ton of work. But also very satisfying.
Chris Trevas (CT): It’s nice to see the art out in print finally and now I can read the text!
EUC: I’m sure. Now, how would you describe the Atlas?
JF: How to describe the Atlas. Hmm. We tried to make it not just a book of maps, but a portrait of the galaxy, in terms of its society, economy, history and everything else.
DW: I would describe it as part introduction to the galaxy and part history book, all viewed through a prism of geography. The galaxy looked different 5000 years ago than it looks now, so not only did we need to describe the galaxy in spatial terms, we needed to describe it in temporal terms. In some respects there are lots of galaxies depicted in the Atlas — each one occurring at a different point in time.
JF: Chris’s illustrations, I think, really made it seem “real.” As did the maps by Modi and Chris Reiff, and Ian Fullwood’s planets.
EUC: Very cool. Would you say it was different from past works you’ve all worked on?
DW: For me, there were some similarities with the New Essential Chronology and The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons. It took elements of both of those books, but like I said it recast them through the prism of geography. So some of the writing seemed familiar. But the mapmaking was very new.
CT: This was the most color artwork I’ve done for a single project (82 illustrations) and I had a lot of freedom, which I enjoyed.
JF: It was kind of new territory for me. But I’d worked on RPG books, where my real love was “fluff” instead of “crunch” — histories and societies and all that. So the Atlas was in some ways a continuation of that work.
DW: Also, Jason and I (with Craig Carey) did some articles for the late Star Wars Gamer that set the tone for what we did with the Atlas. One on Hoth and one on Endor. In fact, the Atlas chapters dealing with those sectors are largely a reworking of our Gamer articles.
EUC: Awesome. Now, this book deals not only with maps but heavily with history– and showing history through maps. Was that whole idea pretty easy to pitch to Lucasfilm?
DW: It seemed kind of inevitable. But yes, initially I was concerned they might think it was too much overlap with the New Essential Chronology. But we found it was impossible to talk about the Empire without talking about the Clone Wars, and impossible to talk about the Clone Wars without talking about the Sith War, so …. history.
JF: Right. And everywhere we could, we made sure that the history was being discussed with an eye toward how geography shaped it.
DW: Who knew the Hutts were such big players?
EUC: Ha! Yeah, seeing Hutta in TOR will be fun too.
JF: Yep. Filling in the history of the Hutts was unbelievably fun to do.
DW: Looking forward to TOR! Just making my way through WoW at the moment and can anticipate how easy it is to get sucked into an MMO.
EUC: Yep, yep. The game is very reminiscent of the first two games; in a good way, of course.
DW: Agreed. Now if we could only be 100% sure that TOR (and every other source, ever) stays consistent with the Atlas then everything would be golden! :)
JF: Absolutely. We’re not sure what all it will bring. We found out what details we did very late — for example, the revision of when the Hydian Way was founded. That was a surprise!
EUC: Yes! Now, speaking to that, the Atlas has a very strong online presence at the time being. Do you want to maybe tell our readers more about that?
JF: Sure thing. We knew the book would be immediately out of date — that there would be new star systems introduced in comics, novels, etc. And we knew that, inevitably, we’d make some mistakes given the scope of the project. And we wanted to explore some things of interest to really hardcore fans.
DW: Everything should be able to be found at starwars.com/atlas. What you’ll find there at the moment is a behind-the-scenes article, a complete set of endnotes, and an online-exclusive sector map. And also a complete online appendix of system placements (more than 4400) which we can update/correct on the fly.
JF: Right — lots of goodies! An online adjunct to the book seemed like the best way to handle everything.
DW: What we hope to add to that are explanations of errors, lists of errata, Q&A sessions, and more online goodies like the sector map. There’s no reason why the book version of the Atlas can’t be the starting point for a richer experience using another medium.
JF: Now we need additional Trevas artwork! (rubs hands greedily)
EUC: That sound wonderful! Chris, you better get ready ; ) I wouldn’t mind seeing more Trevas work, that’s for sure.
CT: I’m in for new art as long as it’s not needed for awhile :)
EUC: Perfect. Now, Dan, you mentioned The Clone Wars. In the New Essential Chronology it seemed like you guys had TCW settled and pat. Then the new show came. How vague did you have to be thanks to this in some maps?
DW: Ugh — it was more than a little hassle. Back several years ago, I wrote a book called “The Clone Wars Sourcebook” that attempted to detail the entire war (it went unpublished). I had no idea how complicated it would eventually get. The show right now is at an unspecified point in the timeline (to leave story possibilities open for Dave Filoni and George Lucas), so we don’t yet know where to put it.
JF: That’s why that section is a bit more thematic in its discussion than it is a straight chronological retelling.
EUC: Sure, sure, makes sense. It’s funny how the era mentioned by Kenobi once would become so massive. More SW for us though. So, we talked about the harder maps and such; what was your favorite map to work with and why? Chris, your favorite pic to do?
DW: The map I enjoyed playing around with was the “Galactic Explorations” map, in part because it was so complicated. This map needed to depict the galaxy’s major eras of colonization from 25,000 years ago to today, without too terribly contradicting anything that had come before or would come in the future. As it turned out there are always a number of “outliers’ when dealing with history (e.g. planets that shouldn’t really be settled yet but are anyway because the story was written that way), but we tried to make it as smooth as possible. Plus, the final result is an absolutely gorgeous map.
JF: Yes, that one was my favorite too. W were able to use that info not just for a big map, but as a backdrop for the various historical maps. Which I think gave them additional interest.
CT: It’s hard for me to pick a specific favorite from so many. Han and Chewie being boarded by Imperials was fun so were the alien scenes that were just random snapshots of life in the SW universe.
JF: The one that scared me the most was Galactic Populations, but there was a lot of data for the major worlds, and we could extrapolate from there. Much easier than I’d thought. Chris, your image of Leia on Kattada is my favorite. It’s a new portrait of the character, but I think it’ll become an iconic one!
CT: It’s always fun to take the classic characters into new situations.
JF: Though of course there’s the two hyperspace scouts!
DW: For readers who aren’t aware, the holochess player (depicting the example of the Human species) is Chris, and the two hyperspace scouts are Jason and me.
EUC: The realism of the pics is always enjoyed. That pic is used a lot now to show you guys. Alright, final question: Was it worth it?
JF: Absolutely. I literally dreamed about this book before getting a chance to co-write it.
DW: Absolutely it was worth it, and the proof is in that we haven’t stopped working on it! Lots of stuff up on starwars.com/atlas, which attests to the fact that we can’t let it go! The only thing that is killing Jason and I is the fact that we made mistakes here and there. We’ve set up an email address so anybody can email us with praise or criticism, and we’ve gotten lots of feedback so far. But every time somebody points out a typo or missed placement there’s a collective curse that goes up from Minneapolis and Brooklyn.
CT: I had a lot of fun working on it and it was great to do such a variety of images. I don’t have nearly the amount of time invested in it as Jason and Dan, but it was well worth the months I put in.
EUC: Sounds awesome guys; I enjoyed the book, I know many others have and will soon enough. Thanks so much for giving the time and dedication for this and for the book.
JF: Thank you for giving us the chance to talk about it!
DW: Hey, no problem — thanks for giving us the platform to talk.
CT: No problem at all. It’s very exciting that there’s so much interest from the fans.
DW: Updates on the Atlas can always be found at starwars.com/atlas, and fans who want to contact us can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.