Note: This intro, along with the chapters that will be posted were all written before seeing The Force Awakens. Having seen it, I am please that nothing I am doing here seems to contradict anything else from that movie.
I will be posting a series of chapters of a story I have begun to write I am titling “Ghosts of the Sith.” It’s a “fan fiction” work that takes places in the world of the Star Wars universe, (yes, that is copyright material owned by Disney™, Lucasfilm™, etc.) Let me state the usual caveats: this is a writing exercise. It’s being published free, as these are licensed creations, and I am doing this also as an homage to the Star Wars universe as a fan.
I had an idea for this story some time ago. My point of inspiration involved reading some stories of the creation and conception of The Empire Strikes Back, including some ideas which were kicking around, including commissioning Ralph McQuarrie to create sketches of Darth Vader’s Castle, intending possible scenes to take place there. I had a thought of wondering what would Darth Vader’s “home” actually be like?
I realize that much of the action remains in characters I have created, mostly in the form of the stormtrooper garrison that is left behind. I always liked the idea that the stormtroopers were regular troopers, ones who had signed up out of patriotism or youthful restlessness, like soldiers usually do. Full of training and spirit, they were eager to spring into action. Over time, the war would grind on them, making them suspicious of the Empire, as well as the limits of their duty. As I write this, I have not yet seen the new movie The Force Awakens, but previews indicate that the character of Finn is a former stormtrooper who questions his duty to the First Order. Well, I want to get this story out there, lest it seem a little too diluted or too derivative of other work.
The setting of this story is the immediate aftermath of RoTJ and the destruction of Endor, and the death of Vader and Palpatine. Luke goes to take possession of the castle of which Vader was “Lord.” This story seeks to gently go into the background of the Star Wars universe, exploring the meaning of the Force, and the people (human and non) who have been scarred by the Empire.
I would normally be hesitant to write Star Wars fan-fic, as there have been tons and tons of licensed work in the old Extended Universe of novels, comic-books, and games, etc. Now that Disney has officially made all those EU works non-canon, I realized that there is a little room for my own interpretation, which would otherwise clash into specific things that happened in old EU. So why not? I’m having fun writing this.
A note on the old EU: being “legends,” I certainly hope that some things that were in the old EU get to be reincorporated. It would be a shame to lose conceptions such as holocrons and great characters like Mara Jade and Admiral Thrawn. Overall, I have read very little of the massive old EU, although I definitely liked Timothy Zahn’s trilogy, as well as bits of other works. I also liked the “Dark Empire” comic series for what it was, even though, in reflection, I think it does impeach the resolution at the end of RoTJ quite a bit. I have made a specific homage to Dark Empire, and I like to think that the way I frame it is the way I would recommend that it remain within canon.
I also make copious use of the world gleaned from the creators of the multi-player online game, Star Wars: The Old Republic. The planets and settings appear in my work. I really have liked the game, and playing it has kept my interest alive in the Star Wars Universe. My use of the planet Voss, I realize, may not accurately represent it the way it has been in other works, so I hope that nobody feels that I dishonored their work.
I’ve never served in the military. I’m from a family with past generations of service, which, like so many others, has fallen off in the post-draft era. For me, I had an interest in the military, and I did pursue ROTC in college, getting some MILS training, and I just didn’t sign up to continue on to Fort Lewis for full induction. I can say I at least got to spend some time with some interesting Non-Coms as my instructors a few years after the first Gulf War, and they had quite a bit of wisdom to share. My experience in sleeping in barracks and doing infantry maneuvers was thus that of a cadet doing the phony version of such things that soldiers do for real, but as far as gaining useful knowledge of the wider world, they were some of the better, actually immersive college courses I took. Hey, I also qualified on an M-16, so there’s that, too. I have kept in mind that the stormtroopers in my fiction are humanoid grunts who suffer under those helmets that make them anonymous, and who get through on their missions relying on training, repetition, along with a bit of soldierly dark humor.
I was also influenced by a couple of military artists of whom I am personally very much a fan. I was inspired a lot by Maximilian Uriarte, creator of Terminal Lance, a cartoon about Marine Life, to whom I’m indebted for getting an insight into the musings and grumblings of Marine Infantrymen. It’s a good cartoon about a specific subculture, that I recommend to anyone. Also, I came across the artwork of Matthew Callahan while doing this. I would like to say I had a similar inspiration, at least seeing in the troopers of the Star Wars universe, a vector to relate the nature of martial duty as veterans experience it.
I also have conceived a lot of background info to the SW universe which may have been covered elsewhere. I have described mundane things such as generators and fusion cores. I also have described the neoprene-like black suit which stormtroopers wear under their shells as a bio-mechanical “overskin.” My idea here is not unique, as it’s appeared in numerous science fiction conceptions, and is based somewhat on actual scientific prototypes of environmental protection suits, and pro-biotic concepts. I imagine it as a suit which not only breathes, but maintains the bacterial balance of the skin, and it constricts or expands for temperature and pressure control for the comfort of the person wearing it. It occurred to me that about the only way in which stormtroopers could be even close to comfortable would be if their suits provided them some degree of regulation like this. Also, what is sci-fi for, if not for imagining how things might be otherwise than what they are? Ask any grunt sitting in a hole or standing for guard duty if they could have a suit that kept them dry, regulated their temperature, and ate their sweat, and they’d probably be highly motivated to fire on whatever Sandcrawler you point them at. Not that the Empire would worry about trooper individual comfort, but they would prefer to get their full investment out of every grunt, I am sure.
I’ve enjoyed conceiving of what stormtrooper organization and regulation would be. I have described the stormtrooper helmet as carrying a HUD within it which doesn’t always work as well as promised, which I will say accounts for occasionally terrible aim when caught by surprise, as well as the problems an ignorant farm boy might have when putting it on and trying to see out of it. I imagine the weapons in here as if they were real weapons which have heft and kickback, and get hot. I recall reading from somewhere that I do not recall that the “blasters” in Star Wars are supposed to be bolts of super-heated plasma, not lasers, which makes sense for a projectile weapon. I have treated light sabers the same way, although the light saber is a bit of a fantasy weapon, so speculating on its heft and weight in real life is a debate about how so many proverbial dancing angels.
The way I see Star Wars in terms of the setting of the story that is being told is that it is a proper mashup of genres. I get why we don’t really want to call it “science fiction,” as it is less about futurism than it is about basically bronze-age, or medieval cultures with the veneer of retro-futurism. The “retro-futurism” is another part that was brilliant about Lucas and company’s original conceptions in that the “future” of spaceships and landspeeders wasn’t purely glittering perfection, but was also a little rusty, worn, and unimpressive to the people who live there and are used to it. Conceptually, it’s a medieval, pre-industrial setting with spaceships superimposed on it.
This fanfic is aimed at an adult audience. As I have written it thus far, there is relatively little sex, but sexuality is acknowledged, and acts do occur (mostly) offscreen. There is violence in this, but this is not fanfic with non-stop fights. There will be heroics, confrontations, and characters will be killed. However, if you prefer non-stop light saber duels, then this is not the story you are looking for.
Four chapters will be posted shortly. A fifth is on the way. I am unsure what will happen after that, as much will depend on my own time whether I consider this project worthwhile to continue.
Daniel Jeyn, December 2015