Star Wars: Kenobi
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As always with my production notes and trivia, a serious SPOILER WARNING is in effect! Please read the book first.
In 2006, Dark Horse released the first year of my Knights of the Old Republic comics. Sales were good, and I was working with the publisher to find some additional projects — suggesting everything from a KOTOR Handbook
to a Moomo Brothers/Gryph miniseries (under my tentative title
"Scoundrels," which became the title for a later Star Wars
novel). The KOTOR Handbook did eventually happen, but in August my
editor Jeremy Barlow asked me
to shelve the mini-series idea in favor of proposing an original Star
Wars graphic novel instead. Dark Horse hadn't done original graphic
novels for Star Wars for a while, but with the 30th anniversary of A New Hope approaching in 2007, it seemed there was an opportunity.
I suggested a couple of Boba Fett story ideas -- and while neither of them went anywhere, they did prompt a discussion about western movies we both liked; Jeremy wondered what a movie like Shane would have been like with Boba Fett in the mysterious stranger role. Around the same time, we had been discussing whether there was any way at all to tell a story about Obi-Wan Kenobi during his exile; Jeremy messaged me in early October saying that he thought there might be, provided the story's continuity footprint was extremely limited. On reading that, I had a brainstorm -- and later that afternoon I sent back a message titled "The Ben Kenobi Western." In several paragraphs, I laid out what would eventually become the basic idea for Star Wars: Kenobi.
Obi-Wan would inhabit the Shane-like mysterious stranger role, attempting to buy water on Tatooine. There, he would meet a local family and become entangled, against his better judgment, in their lives. He would be befriended by the local retail magnate and his twenty-something daughter. She and Obi-Wan would discover the protection racket her father was running, and Obi-Wan would be forced to break it up -- an act that would drive her offworld and out of his life. It would be a difficult thing, but it would be for her own good -- a fact that she would later realize. Jeremy responded enthusiastically -- and with some ground rules provided by Lucasfilm (as well as a heads-up about Obi-Wan's appearance in the Scholastic novels and a future issue of Star Wars: Legacy), I was off and writing on a plot.
That's right -- in the first draft of the plot, submitted in early November, there was no Orrin Gault and Annileen Calwell; rather, it was Gault Pritchell and his daughter Hardi (a name that was a wink to the naming convention from a Brian Daley novel and the early Marvel comics, which included characters Hasti, Lanni, and Jolli). Gault was older than Obi-Wan and she was younger; she was the one to overhear Obi-Wan trying to talk to Qui-Gon. The title, from the beginning, was simply "Ben."
Further discussion prompted a second draft, written over the 2006 holidays, in which I replaced the Hardi character with two women -- mother Annileen and daughter Kallie -- and greatly expanded the role of the character now known as Orrin Gault. Orrin now had an extensive background worked out, showing his long descent into corruption -- and that allowed for a trip to Mos Eisley for an action sequence involving Jabba's henchmen and Mosep Binneed. Annileen also gained a son, Jabe, to be saved from Orrin's machinations by Obi-Wan -- and in making her older, Annileen became much more Obi-Wan's equal. Orrin, too, was made younger, allowing him to be more of a peer for the newcomer.
Jeremy suggested another round of changes: with message titles like "The Kenobi Kid in 'The Perils of the Pika Oasis'," you could tell we were having fun during the process. The main request was for an epic scene at the end, and I responded in February 2007 with a third draft providing that -- and greatly increasing the role of A'Yark and the Tuskens. By now, I had fifty pages of material and no idea how it would all fit in to a graphic novel, and it was too late for a graphic novel for the 30th anniversary anyway. But the story was mostly formed. And then…
…well, I quit my day job. I had been at Krause Publications for 13 years, and had reinvented my job until I could do so no more -- and I had built up enough work on the side that it no longer made sense to remain. The motivating factor allowing me to leave in early March was work on a video game project, Sword of the New World, that would keep me busy through March and April; "Ben" was tabled in the meantime. Then, in May 2007, at Star Wars Celebration IV in Los Angeles, Jeremy informed me that he was shifting to become editor of the Indiana Jones property -- and that he wanted me to write the adaptation for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. "Ben" was shelved, perhaps permanently, so far as I knew. I had plenty enough on my plate as it was -- with "Vector" coming up in KOTOR, the KOTOR Handbook, the Knights of the Old Republic Campaign Guide, and Indiana Jones filling out the rest of 2007, I barely thought about "Ben" again.
At least, not until I began writing Star Wars prose for Del Rey. In 2010, having finished the Star Wars: Knight Errant prose book, I briefly suggested "Ben" as an option to Shelly Shapiro at Star Wars Celebration V. She was intrigued, but we discussed it no further until 2012 and Star Wars Celebration VI. In a meeting with her and Frank Parisi while we all sat on the hallway floor of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, we decided the time was right to take up the story again.
And so it was that Star Wars: Kenobi -- so renamed because there's already another "Ben" in Star Wars, Ben Skywalker — went on the schedule for 2013. The novel was announced at New York Comicon on Friday, Oct. 12, 2012 -- exactly six years and one week after I had the idea. It just goes to show, writers of the world: save your files. The path to publication can be a winding one!
CHANGES FROM THE GRAPHIC NOVEL PLOT
Returning to the third draft of the "Ben" graphic novel after five-plus years was like time travel -- but I found a story that was 90% of the way to where it needed to be.
A'Yark was the least-fully formed character from the comics plot; since I wasn't writing with point-of-view characters in the prose sense, I had done little thinking on the character's backstory. A'Yark knew Sharad, I had intended; but it wasn't until I turned to actually writing the prose version that I figured out the character's gender and connection to the former Jedi-turned-Tusken. Both those elements turned out to be very important to the story: A'Yark's sections take up almost a quarter of the book.
In the last 2007 draft, Orrin had three sons, which on reflection would have been too much in the Bonanza/Big Valley vein. In streamlining the story, I turned one of the siblings into Veeka and killed off the other -- and by making the dead child Veeka's twin, we provided some explanation for Veeka's demeanor.
There was one meditation in the original comics plot — when Ben is overheard by Kallie — and that meditation also appeared in my proposal for Random House. Jennifer Heddle at Lucasfilm suggested expanding the meditations to appear throughout the book, giving the reader chances to hear what Obi-Wan was thinking about. They became favorite parts for many readers, and for myself, I think they're vital. They provide the emotional throughline of the book — and importantly, they're the only place where we can really mention Luke and the Emperor in any detail.
The staff at Random House suggested two additions: the prologue and the Krayt Dragon fight at the end. The prologue dealt with the fact that Obi-Wan wasn't on the scene until much later in the book; I was perfectly fine with adding that, and, in fact, had already considered what became the prologue for a possible short story prequel (like what eventually ran in Star Wars Insider). Old Ulbreck was the perfect choice for an unreliable narrator in the prologue, and it and the short meditation further set the terms of the story for the reader. This was how we were going to experience Obi-Wan in the novel: mostly through others' eyes.
The Krayt Dragon fight was also something I didn't have to be talked into at all, because the exact details of the showdown at the end had taken shape last, and I wasn't feeling that the original idea, Obi-Wan using the Force to save the Tusken youth from a rock collapse, was strong enough. It also dovetailed with the many times the locals had used the Krayt call: you can only cry wolf so many times before a Krayt drops by!
Monkey Jabba -- known more properly as Mosep Binneed -- stayed in. He's my nod to the original Marvel adaptation of A New Hope, which is where I first saw Obi-Wan and Tatooine; I was tickled to be able to include the character.
LIFE IN EXILE
I wrote the novel over the winter months of 2012-13, while snowbound in my rural Wisconsin home; except for the thermometer, I really felt Obi-Wan's desert isolation. The pacing of the novel reflects that. Events transpire very slowly until Ben makes his appearance -- and then, whenever he appears, a whole lot happens at once. Most of Part Two happens in a 36-hour period; most of Part Three and all of Part Four take place in another 36 hour period. Between those moments, the days stretch out. If you're ever feeling that time is moving slowly in those in-between stretches, that's intentional. That's what it's like to be these characters in this place, when there's no Jedi around to stir things up!
Writing about Obi-Wan in the inter-movie era involves some problems for the dramatist. Showing Obi-Wan swatting away threats to young Luke is the most obvious of plots, of course, but it's also a foregone conclusion: nothing happens to Luke. You need other characters to get any mortal jeopardy -- and for the reader to care, the story needs to be about them, as well. That's another reason the book spends so much time with the point-of-view characters before Ben makes the scene. You have to know what the body of water looks like before he arrives to start making waves.
(Water is, in fact, one of the book's several thematic devices. Water is used as a weapon in Lost Tribe of the Sith; here, water pretty obviously equals hope. Had I needed to use an additional subtitle for the book, I was considering "Rain Shadow," a line used in the final mediation.)
While the story is set before Obi-Wan learns the truth about Anakin, there are some moments folks have long wondered about that the story takes a stab at: how his real surname got into circulation is a big one. There's also a nod to a possible explanation for how much he aged during his stay on Tatooine, although the door is left open for alternative reasons.
As mentioned above, Kenobi was announced at New York Comic Con with an accompanying promotional image by Chris Scalf. (It was just a few weeks before the Disney purchase of Lucasfilm was announced.) I finished the book early in 2013 and moved immediately from Kenobi to writing my own Overdraft: The Orion Offensive, but I continued to work on proofreading and promotions throughout the year. The cover, by Chris McGrath, was released in May. (An alternate McGrath cover, not selected, appears here.)
When I attended San Diego Comic-Con in 2013 to promote the book, Del Rey revealed a cool promo item for the volume: sound-making keychains mimicking the Settler's Call in the book. Leland Chee at Lucasfilm obtained the original sound clip from before the Special Edition of Obi-Wan's krayt dragon call; it was used in the keychains, which came in both white-and-orange and blue-and-white. We could barely hear them in the convention center, but they certainly made a lot of noise in the San Diego airport!
The audiobook was recorded by Jonathan Davis in the summer of 2013 and is a full production, with sound effects and music; it's a wonderful work. It was my first audiobook, and I was really jazzed about it. The producers said they enjoyed making the recording: it's the rare Star Wars adaptation that didn't require them to simulate the sounds of a space battle!
James Arnold Taylor, voice of Obi-Wan Kenobi on the Clone Wars animated series, received an advance copy of the novel and fell in love with the book; he volunteered to record one of the meditations for a pre-release-day post on Entertainment Weekly's website. He later appeared in interviews and podcasts with me, surprising me in one with a special recording for my son's birthday -- a greeting from Obi-Wan Kenobi and Johnny Test!
I also worked with Lucasfilm's Matt Martin to create a blog post for StarWars.com sharing all the maps I worked with during the book. I had used maps from West End's Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley and DK's Star Wars: Complete Locations extensively; the blog post included those maps, keyed by me to events in the novel. I added one of my own, a map of the Claim. Dannar's Claim is a location I began envisioning back in the comics stages; the place was very real to me by the time the final book was done. So much of the action is set there — and the store provides so many services — that I had to get straight what was where, especially during the attack scene partway through. You can find the map article here.
I wrote a short story prequel to the novel, "Incognito," for Star Wars Insider #143, which came out shortly before the novel was released.
In the month leading up to the release, I did my own series of daily Twitter trivial posts, hashtagged #KenobiCountdown. (My feed is @jjmfaraway.)
Kenobi was released in hardcover, e-book, and audiobook form on August 27, 2013. My release-night event was at the Booksellers at Laurelwood in Memphis, my hometown indie bookstore: several people from my high school attended, making it a mini-reunion. Kenobi debuted at #12 on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list, my third book to make their lists and my first on the hardcover list.
The hardcover contained an excerpt from Star Wars: Empire and Rebellion: Razor's Edge by Martha Wells.
The book was a featured release by the Science Fiction Book Club; a slightly smaller hardcover edition was released for it.
I was profoundly touched by the warm reception the book received from fans and reviewers alike. I'd never written a book I felt more strongly about, and I am delighted that it found an audience. My thanks again to Jennifer Heddle and Leland Chee at Lucasfilm and Shelly Shapiro, Frank Parisi, Erich Schoeneweiss, Keith Clayton, and everybody at Random House. And to Jeremy Barlow, whose conversations got the whole thing rolling.
Update: And at Comic-Con International: San Diego in July 2014, the weekend before the release of the paperback edition, the novel received the Scribe Award for Best Original Novel (Speculative Fiction) from my peers in the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers. I'm honored to have been considered!
As there has been an audiobook, what you hear there are the official pronunciations. I only differ from them in my own mind in a few places: I tend to pronounce Calwell as in "call" and not "cal," Bezzard as BEZZ-ard, and Dannar as DAN-ner.
TRIVIA AND THOUGHTS
The opening gives us our first Clark Kent moment. Obi-Wan does something extraordinary while seeming not to for his witnesses — including the person whose point of view we're in. The trick is conveying enough so that the reader figures out what Obi-Wan is doing, but not so much that the speaker gets it. Drunken Ulbreck, our unreliable narrator, was the perfect choice for our first eyewitness report.
Junix's Joint is really a very old place indeed: it is a setting in the Knights of the Old Republic game.
When Obi-Wan mentions mischief at a spaceport, he's referring to the events of "Incognito" in Star Wars Insider #143.
Every one of the four "parts" is both a geographical and metaphysical location: "The Oasis," "The Killing Ground," "The Bright Center," and "The Rift."
The Tusken mythology has fairly obvious allegorical connections to Anakin and Obi-Wan's story.
There was a question in the beginning as to how to refer to gaderffii. I decided to treat gaderffii as the real name, and "gaffi stick" as the term used by settlers like Orrin, who don't know the full name.
The question of what the Tuskens call themselves is complicated. They weren't known as Tuskens until the Battle at Fort Tusken, and so previously were simply Sand People. But we later saw Sharad Hett using the Tusken term, so it must be a name they used to refer to themselves. The book offers one possible explanation: that the Sand People use the settler term out of defiance.
There is no full language for the Tuskens as exists for the Mandalorians, but some of the words used here and there came from previous works.
The spelled-out version of the Krayt call is the same spelling used in the 1970s adaptation for A New Hope.
One challenge with writing from A'Yark's point of view is that the settlers' names aren't known to the Tuskens, and so we get "The Smiling One" for Orrin, "The Airshaper" for Annileen, and "Hairy Face" for Obi-Wan. As soon as A'Yark hears the names, that changes. Likewise, when the other characters know Plug-eye's real name, that changes as well.
It was important to show Orrin in a calm moment, right at the very start: he's feeling he's in no danger whatsoever, even amid the last stages of a battle.
We met Mullen and Veeka briefly in the prologue, but we learn all we need to know about them in the scene at the Bezzard farm. More importantly, we learn that while Orrin has just about given up trying to change them, he still depends on family first, as frustrating as they may be.
Erbaly Nap'tee should be a familiar sort of customer for anyone who's ever worked retail. And the store being used as a daycare center should also ring some bells!
I was surprised there wasn't already an animal named Snit in Star Wars canon. It fit the critter perfectly. (Side note: Rogue Follower from TheForce.net points out that Droopy McCool once used that alias.)
The Suurjan ear joke I first told back in Knights of the Old Republic #25.
Orrin's motivational speech here has a darker version later on when he's rousing the locals against Ben. The same talents that can be used for good can be turned toward evil.
There are light callbacks early on to Jabba's weapon sales scheme, depicted years earlier in Outlander...
…and then there's another Outlander callback in the fate of the injured warrior.
I needed to know what the parts of a dewback's harness were called; it turned out there was no resource for that. So I turned to Beth Kinnane, equestrian expert and former colleague from my college newspaper, to figure out the details.
I had imagined Ben's introduction to Annileen a number of ways before I determined that an action scene was best. We readers know who we're meeting, but she finds out just a little at a time. It's Lois Lane meeting Superman.
I was surprised that there wasn't a name anywhere for Ben's eopie. One reader suggested there should be children's books featuring Rooh.
Seeing how Ben treats Rooh sells Annileen immediately on him. Always be kind to animals, folks -- especially when trying to make a first impression!
Putting myself in the mind of the Tuskens resulted in one of the fun twists. Since the Tuskens have no conception of self-sacrifice, A'Yark assumed Annileen had used magical powers to save herself; Ben, by rights, would never have bothered. A misunderstanding that cost the Tuskens dearly.
Obi-Wan mentions the visit to the Xelric Draw from Episode I; it was where he was staying, behind with the ship.
Obi-Wan also mentions having moved: this is a consequence of a moment in Star Wars: The Life and Times of Obi-Wan Kenobi, in which Owen Lars advises against staying too close by. There had been a mention in the short story on the Sideshow Collectibles Obi-Wan statue web page of his having built his house, but that conflicted with the Complete Locations guide. (That element is handled in a later quote, where he describes having thought about building his own house before deciding against it.)
All of the landspeeders, like the USV-5, previously existed in canon, with many coming from West End and Wizards of the Coast game books.
Tar Lup, the fill-in clerk, also came from Star Wars Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley. In later years, he's running his own shop in the big city. He's one of the few pre-existing EU characters to appear in the book.
The back-and-forth battle between Kallie and Jabe over turf escalates here; Annileen's reactions to it should be familiar to any parent of more than one child!
Erbaly Nap'tee reappears, asking a dumb question. I half-expected her to turn up during the Tusken raid scene, asking A'Yark about the returns policy.
The similarity between Obi-Wan's robe and the Jawa robes is something I noticed as a kid playing with the action figures; it's played for laughs here.
The tack room being a former storage closet recalls a lot of retail spaces out where I live, where very old rural buildings put lots of nooks and crannies to use.
It occurred to me that Obi-Wan shouldn't have a shopping cart, but rather should be carrying his goods inside something he intended to purchase and use. The metal tub had the added benefit of working with the combat scene I had in mind.
Another Clark Kent moment here, this time with Annileen as witness. She's sober, unlike Ulbreck before -- but things are chaotic and she's literally off-balance here, so she's not sure exactly what happened.
It's established here that Ulbreck has sworn off drink since the night in Anchorhead.
Little moments like Ulbreck using Orrin's comb and Orrin throwing it away later are part of what makes writing characters that hate each other fun.
The "grand tour" was a sequence that existed in my earliest draft. Showing Orrin's somewhat soulful relationship with the environment was key in making Obi-Wan like him. It's the equivalent of Annileen seeing Obi-Wan being nice to his eopie. Water prospectors are known on Earth, of course: diviners and rainmakers, included. What Orrin and his colleagues are up to is part science and part art, with a little bit of mysticism thrown in.
I used some lines to address a pretty obvious question: why water is so hard to get on Tatooine. Orrin only begins to list some answers before moving on, but I had that list ready. (The double suns threw all the comets out of the system, etc.) And establishing that the prospectors were on the hunt for not just any water added another dimension. People spend billions on bottled water products, all of which claim to taste different from what one gets from the tap; it struck me that people might think this way here, too.
The model of vaporator Orrin is using is one model-number ahead of one that had been previously introduced in continuity. I was imagining this model as being much taller and sturdier at the bottom: a bit like what we saw in the "Water Bandits" issue of the Marvel series.
There is a militia in Mos Eisley, described first in Galaxy Guide 7. It's not much, as Orrin says.
Obi-Wan mentions that he had his first brush with the Tuskens years earlier; it is possibly the most obscure EU moment referenced in the book. It took place in the Star Wars: Obi-Wan game, while Obi-Wan was waiting behind for Qui-Gon to return in Episode I.
The term "youngling" to mean "child" seems to be ubiquitous in Star Wars, crossing lingual divides: hence, A'Yark's use of the term. It doesn't appear to be just a Basic neologism.
An actual Tusken rite of passage appeared back in Outlander.
The store portion of this chapter, plus Annileen's visit to Ben's place, was the first piece I wrote for the novel. I wanted to show Del Rey a sample of how Obi-Wan would be depicted.
The "new hotel" taking bids for a water supplier is a setting in Galaxy Guide 7: It's known as the Lucky Despot. The business, we find there, didn't work out too well
The bantha's battle with Ben's house is another moment that appeared in every draft from the first. Obi-Wan is indeed good with animals: see his riding in Episode III. But this is his first bantha.
It was surprising to me that anything grew on Tatooine, but indeed there are a number of hardy plants that survive. The Pika Oasis is named after one of them.
It was necessary to distinguish between what the Tuskens called the area they lived in, and what the settlers called it. Hence, we have The Pillars and the Roiya Rift, both meaning the same thing.
Since we weren't using a calendar with months and days in this story, it helped to have benchmarks like the Comet Run Podrace to mark time from.
"Chancellor Palpa-whoosit?" It's easy to see how little the locals know about the outside galaxy.
I bought my first iPad not long after Annileen throws away her datapad indifferently. I can't imagine doing that myself now!
The bit about the settings on the Old Number One vaporator underlines the extent to which what the locals are doing is, in a sense, alchemy. And Old Number One is a giant divining rod, pointed to the heavens.
I didn't just want to invent an omelet for Ben to refer to, and "gartro omelets" came from the menu at Dex's Diner, once posted on Hyperspace. But I wish I had used something else, because it's not the easiest phrase to pronounce when reading aloud. This was my first book with an audiobook, so I started worrying more about such things.
"I try to avoid the words always and never." This is a sentence I have used many times, in talking about writing for shared universes. The storyline your words cut off may be your own!
Part of the fun of Bohmer is that we really don't know what he's about, but we like him anyway. There's someone like that in every bar. When he's nearly killed, we still feel the impact.
There's a role-playing game module to be had in the Tusken siege of the Claim. I had to work out where all the characters were while it was going on.
Obi-Wan with the fire extinguisher is another Clark Kent moment. He's getting pretty good at dodges like this!
Annileen's command at the end of this chapter includes the first four-letter epithet I've used in my entire body of Star Wars work. "Hell", of course, is said in the movies, but we avoided it in the comics and I never had a scene that needed it. Until now -- Annileen was angry enough that nothing else fit!
A'Yark really is dealing with the bottom of the barrel, as we see the wrong-way warriors head into a trap. Anakin may have decimated the Jedi, but he's also done a number on the Tuskens.
After the reader knows Orrin's game, the dilemmas he faces in these earlier sections appear stark. He doesn't want to wipe out the Tuskens because he needs them to sell his service -- but that same service means he can't let them escape. His whole life is a high-wire act.
Hanter's Gorge and the False Mouth are another settler/Tusken description of the same place. I studied images from around Bryce Canyon in Utah for inspiration for the setting.
I had considered dropping out of the ongoing narrative before this chapter for a single line or two of meditation: Obi-Wan's thoughts as he races off with Annileen. But we'd established that he was speaking aloud to Qui-Gon in this stage, so it didn't really work.
Ben's moment watching Annileen's reaction to the massacre is the equivalent of her seeing him treating Rooh nicely earlier: it's the moment when he decides he can trust her. Up to a point, anyway…
Ben and Annileen's return of the slain Tusken to his people -- and his return of the gaderffii -- was a moment that existed in every draft, though A'Deen's exact relationship to A'Yark was something that came later.
With the A'Yark revelation, I well expected readers to go back looking for pronouns. There aren't any. It was something we triple-checked! The affected means of self-reference the Tuskens used made it a lot easier: constant references to "the warrior" and "the war leader" didn't feel out of place.
The exchange here raised an interesting question: can you use Force Persuasion when you don't know the language of the listener? The answer is yes, since it works on mental centers that process language: it's how Luke persuades Bib Fortuna. I'd also previously shown Yaru Korsin reaching out to Adari Vaal through the Force in Lost Tribe of the Sith.
Sharad Hett, the Outlander, appears in the Dark Horse comics story of the same name by Tim Truman. It's a name Obi-Wan would certainly recognize.
The burial biers likewise came from Outlander, as did the character K'Sheek.
K'Sheek had been described as disappearing in a sandstorm, but I never considered turning the character into A'Yark: K'Sheek was human, and I wanted A'Yark to be all Tusken. K'Sheek, however, played an important role here, giving A'Yark a grounding in what outsiders think and how they speak.
"Perhaps I already have a family to watch over." Another line that was in every draft from the start. I think Obi-Wan rather relishes telling the truth in moments like this, even if he's lying the rest of the time!
My son was a breach birth: I've had to use the "going butt-first into the world" line on occasion in his teen years!
"The Intrepid Annileen" echoes the nickname my wife earned some years ago, while we were briefly coworkers: Knight Errant is dedicated to her, "intrepid and wise." She even used the nickname for her crafting site.
We were careful in Obi-Wan's overheard meditation to give no details that would allow Kallie to tie him to the Jedi or anything else, but we do bring the "Kenobi" name into play, as well as lay some groundwork for the locals thinking he's balmy.
Originally, Kallie and Jabe were going to rattle off a much longer list of people either named Kenobi, or something similar -- but we'd already gone there, so readers had the idea. Kenobi may not be "Smith" or "Jones," but it and names that sound like it are not that uncommon, either.
"The Great Pit" is the Pit of Carkoon.
This chapter opens as Orrin Gault's Really Good Day -- but as we notice, there are still a number of things that have gone wrong with it. He's bluffing his way through life, even if it means fooling himself.
For "Kenobi!", yelled as Obi-Wan enters the bar, insert "Norm!" Cheers fans will know what I mean -- and why Obi-Wan resolves never to come back!
It may seem as though Obi-Wan is a regular, but this is actually only Obi-Wan's third visit to the Claim -- and it is his last during daylight. The arrival of Bojo Boopa is the turning point in all Orrin's plans, but it also comes at the exact moment when Obi-Wan is considering enlisting help in watching over the Lars family. He never gets any closer.
Obi-Wan plays janitor. He's the kind of undercover store security you want to have!
There's a lot of things going on in this chapter's closing moments. Orrin, expecting he's going to have to take steps to save his carcass, subtly but surely conveys to Obi-Wan he thinks the Claim and Annileen's family are his turf -- just at the moment when Obi-Wan has decided that he's had enough near-misses with the locals. And poor Annileen doesn't understand what either one is thinking. It was the right sort of moment to end a book section with.
The start of Part Three takes place some time after Obi-Wan departs the store for what he says is the last time; it begins with a chapter for each of the POV protagonists, in a miniature echo of the way the book began. But things are different now for Ben's presence, and his absence is really felt.
Another Good Question came up in this sequence: can Tuskens drive a landspeeder? They're definitely familiar with them, having scavenged the equipment before: we see them rifling through Luke's landspeeder in A New Hope. I figured they'd be most likely to tie the thing to a bantha, which they did know how to control.
How much by volume do people sweat? One of the few real-world bits of research the story required.
I'm sure many people in retail sympathize with Annileen, hanging from the ceiling while Erbaly asks her for help.
We finally learn about all the packages Leelee is mailing. I had originally written a longer discussion on how the mail worked out in the Oasis, but it was beside the point.
Obi-Wan's dream, we later realize, fuses Anakin's and Orrin's fates.
The LiteVan made its reappearance here. It struck me that the Calwells probably had a collection of old service vehicles, and that they hadn't had anything nice in a long time -- in contrast to what Orrin's family had. So the luxury speeder gift is a big deal.
"The wedding is on Naboo." A wink to Episode II.
Believe it or not, I stressed over the gift certificate. If there's one thing you don't see in Star Wars much at all, it's paper. But it didn't seem right to have Orrin sending Annileen a text message!
I also spent some time looking into the gestation periods of various beasts of burden, as the length of time it took for an eopie to carry its offspring to term hadn't been established. The life of a writer is not always glamorous!
Mos Eisley is the closest many people on Tatooine ever get to traveling to the stars -- so for Annileen, we see it introduced as an exotic port of call. It's still a wretched hive of scum and villainy, but as earlier books had established, there are some less dangerous neighborhoods. Kerner Plaza and the Court of the Fountain both came from earlier works.
The name of The Twin Shadows Inn recalls the opening Tusken legend.
One of the challenges with putting Obi-Wan into tricky fish-out-of-water situations was finding the right tone for his reactions. It would have been easy to slip into slapstick, showing his horror at being thrown into the middle of an Ithorian wedding; here, he under-reacts rather than overreacts. We already know it's a place where he doesn't want to be -- but Obi-Wan always keeps his cool. (Well, almost!)
Serving droid GG-8, comics readers recall, has been bouncing around for a long time, indeed. I thought about using a different droid named OB-1 for about three seconds to give Obi-Wan another awkward moment -- but then decided the poor guy had enough troubles!
The appearance of the Clone Trooper isn't exactly what Obi-Wan is used to seeing -- but that doesn't necessarily mean it's made the transition to Stormtrooper at this point; this scene is very soon after the end of Episode III, remember.
Docking Bay 87 is described in Galaxy Guide 7: Mos Eisley. I chose it just because of its location, away from where Obi-Wan and Jabba's townhouse are.
During the graphic novel drafts, I had considered having the new landspeeder Annileen receives be the one that Luke later reconditions. Obi-Wan would have been left with the vehicle when Annileen departs, and Owen Lars would have simply awakened one day to find it parked outside. Six years later, I changed my mind about the scene: it was too coincidental and there wasn't any need for it. As time goes on, you think differently about ideas that might once have seemed cool. (It didn't matter, anyway: in my 2012 research I uncovered a scene with Owen and young Luke shopping for the vehicle.)
The JG-8's stylishness is discussed in the Arms and Equipment Guide from the Star Wars Roleplaying Game from Wizards of the Coast.
Galaxy Guide 7 describes Jabba's townhouse in great detail, as well as the Kayven Whistler trap set above his small throne room. The place is also depicted in Pablo Hidalgo's "Spare Parts" story from Star Wars Adventure Journal 11, a scene that introduced Mosep Binneed's cousin Lhojugg. Alas, Jabba fed poor Lhojugg to the Whistlers…
The explanation that Mosep Binneed or Lhojugg might have been traveling under Jabba's name had been circulating for a while as a possible explanation to Monkey Jabba's appearance in "Whatever Happened to Jabba the Hut?"; I figured Mosep was the character to go with, since his later fate wasn't known. We already know how Obi-Wan dies -- with Mosep, at least, there's some mystery!
The torture devices are in the basement, according to the Galaxy Guide, which is where Mosep tries to send Orrin.
The shortest chapter in the book. I tend to like cliffhangers amid action scenes, but marrying up the post-cliffhanger action with the following chapter would have made it longer than I wanted.
The fact that Jabba's sled triggers the door… yes, Galaxy Guide 7. I owe the author of that volume, Martin Wixted, a drink.
The B'omarr monks and their hideous practices are alluded to first in Return of the Jedi, which depicted brains attached to spider droids in Jabba's Palace.
"Stress pills!" HAL-9000 is always prescribing those...
In an early plot, Annileen helps Obi-Wan deliver Rooh's baby; I decided enough time had passed during the day that nature had already taken its course. The eopie kid -- I assume that's the term -- is not named in this book.
It was pointed out to me as soon as the advance reading copies came out that Annileen's line here -- "You think poor little Annie gets bored with Tatooine, and the first time a stranger from off world comes along, it's off to the races!" -- can be read as a wicked double-entendre about Anakin. It can indeed, but I have to cop to not being nearly that clever -- it's accidental symbolism. Which is sometimes the best kind!
It was fun thinking of all the various answers Annileen had come up with to the mystery of Obi-Wan's past. Jedi is nowhere on the list, we see -- and in fact, many of the possible explanations are unpleasant.
Siri Tachi from the Scholastic novels and Satine from The Clone Wars get mentioned in this meditation sequence; Obi-Wan needed to name some of the ghosts from his past, while not delving into the stories behind them. Neither does he get into the stories of past Jedi loners Zayne and Kerra (about which, more in the FAQs below).
"The Rift" is another geographic section title, suggestive of what's to come.
This chapter was the trickiest to write, because we have a POV character -- Orrin -- who's pretending to be someone else. The expectation from the reader is that we're with A'Yark again, but that begins to peel away as the raid goes on. And then Orrin can't see for part of it because of the shifted goggles (critically, the period when Obi-Wan is in action).
The fake Tuskens meeting real Tuskens is Zayne Carrick luck -- the same thing happened in "Flashpoint" with a Mandalorian masquerade.
"Trouble magnet" was the code-name that Gennady Gavrilov used in speaking with Iron Man in my Crimson Dynamo comics series.
The confrontation here in the darkened store existed, in one form or another, in every draft, and is probably my favorite scene. It's a very human drama playing out, without Jedi or spaceships.
Orrin's suggestion that he might marry Kallie recalls a scene in I, Claudius, when Patrick Stewart's Sejanus suggests marrying Livilla's daughter, Helen: it's a shocking idea that collapses the whole relationship. (Annileen's response, punching Orrin in the jaw, is much preferable to Livilla's choice, which was to poison her own daughter!)
It was important in this chapter to underline how far away the fleeing Ulbrecks and potential help were; there had to be enough time for this sequence to play out.
A'Yark's broken Basic (at least in the English version) followed a few simple rules, most of the time: mostly having to do with subject-verb agreement.
It's not always good to cut away from "let me tell you my plan" moments, but here it was needed to preserve the surprises later on.
Note how Obi-Wan's treatment of the infant eopie sells A'Yark on his trustworthiness, just as his treatment of Rooh sold Annileen. Annileen and A'Yark have that much in common.
The opening of this chapter evolved some from when I first imagined it; Obi-Wan entered the store when he brought Jabe back. I decided to delay his confrontation with Orrin instead.
Orrin is planning -- and replanning, and replanning -- so fast in this portion of the book I almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. In the course of an hour, he's spun from one cover story to another, nearly losing track of how much truth he's told. When he finally exposes how nasty he can be, it's almost a relief for him. And then we have Jabe's confession, at the end -- until the only one left with secrets is, ironically, Obi-Wan.
This is another moment that was in every early draft: mysterious Obi-Wan, sneaking in through the window like Spider-Man. Of course, I had to deal with the fact that most huts on Tatooine have no windows, and that it's freezing at night!
There's some important exposition here as Obi-Wan reveals Orrin's schemes; it's needed to convince Annileen of why remaining in the oasis is untenable.
"There's still good in him." That's part of what's interesting about writing tie-ins: they present the chance to confront characters with the questions they struggled with in the movies, in different forms.
The meditation this chapter is the first time that Luke Skywalker's name is mentioned. That's entirely intentional, and was suggested by editor Shelly Shapiro; Luke's existence is central to all of Obi-Wan's concerns, but it's here that he recommits himself to that. Luke's name doesn't even appear "in the introductory crawl."
Because we know Obi-Wan was at Orrin's office at his ranch, it's implied that he's the rodent Orrin heard rustling around the night before.
Orrin on his own is no threat to Obi-Wan, but Orrin with an army is. Part of how the corruption of the Empire -- and any totalitarian state -- spreads is with the help of ambitious people with the ability to motivate others with their words; Annileen sees how powerful Orrin is at that.
It's easy to make an alien's speech patterns too complicated to understand: Gloamer simply gets four vowels for the price of one in a single stressed word each sentence.
Being able to create the topology of a place is helpful in the staging of an action sequence. Obi-Wan needed an audience that was in an enclosed enough area that all could hear him -- and yet they had to feel as though they had him trapped. Later, it serves to pin the settlers in such that they have to turn on Jabba's toughs.
Obi-Wan finally does his own bantha call for the first time here. He'd heard enough of them by now!
"Groundquake" is the Star Wars term for "earthquake."
"Dancing with Tuskens" appears. Soon to be a feature starring Kevin Costner as Obi-Wan Kenobi...
Obi-Wan learns what Anakin did to the Tuskens later, in a scene from The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi. But we get pretty close to revealing it.
The topology continues to work with the plot, peeling people away from the confrontation until only the main players are together.
Ulbreck, one of the characters created only at the novel stage, really is in this book from start to finish -- and here, we find that his blaster skills are for real, even if he didn't finish off all the Tuskens who attacked the Claim.
The confrontation takes place around double-noon. A reviewer later on suggested "high noons" as an alternate title for the book!
Colorlessness struck me as a common theme to Tusken life: it's all yellows and browns. Orrin notices this in taking the snazzy land speeder into their camp.
The Krayt dragon assault was, as mentioned above, a late addition, but it worked far better, as the reader -- and Orrin -- got to see exactly what Obi-Wan could do, and also why the Krayts were so dangerous.
Orrin might've considered blackmailing Obi-Wan with his secret, but seeing Mullen ends that.
For the second time, Orrin's windshield is taken out by an angry person's gaderffii. He does have a way with people!
"Bad country" echoes A'Yark's description of the region to the south from earlier. It's hard to imagine terrain much worse than where they're living, but it's there.
There was no way to show more of the battle scene, but I loved the idea of the settlers routing Jabba's band. It's perhaps the battle they should have been preparing for all along.
Orrin's fate, foreshadowed in his own contemplations of Tusken eyewear and in Obi-Wan's dream, is one of the nastier things I've done to a character. It takes the fate of a particular character from Lost Tribe of the Sith: The Collected Stories up a notch.
Darth Vader may yell "No!", but Orrin only thinks it.
"Alderaan's still there" is a deliciously painful line -- although those who read closely will recall that the safari is run from an auxiliary campus which may or may not be on the doomed world.
One of the concerns that needed to be addressed was travel in the desert at night, as I wanted this scene to take place at sunset and yet knew that the parties would be headed to Mos Eisley. So the subject of safety is mentioned, and rather than heading off alone, Jabe and Kallie simply park out of earshot so Obi-Wan and Annileen can have their moment.
And that moment, too, is mostly as it was from the earliest plot. Obi-Wan was always going to send them away in this manner -- although in early drafts, it was his confession that he indeed had a family to watch over that was the breaking point. On reflection and editorial advice, it was clear that alone wouldn't be enough to send Annileen away: but on this day, of all days, the confession that he'd been lying about himself from the beginning would be more than enough.
Through prophecies, the novel acknowledges the impending return of A'Sharad Hett, but there were never serious plans to depict that arrival. It's some time later in continuity, for one thing -- but the bigger reason is that A'Yark no longer thinks they need a savior, and this is in large part her story.
Annileen's ship is named the Lady of Bestine, after the planet -- but eagle-eyed readers will catch that Bestine is the town her father's ranch was near. So Annileen is, in a sense, the "Lady of Bestine."
In my very earliest comics draft, Annileen (or the character she originally was) was going to meet a young Moff Tarkin on the ship; I'd even considered that the entire story might even have been a tale she was telling him, having met him for dinner one night. (By the end of the tale, something would have told her not to reveal Ben's last name.) But that would have been needlessly complicated, and I decided the story worked well enough on its own.
The last line of the novel and the first line of the prologue are nearly identical.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
In my various chats and interviews since the release of the book, I've had a number of questions come up repeatedly. Here are a few:
How does the novel fit in with the existing stories?
Fairly easily. It takes place between two sentences on page 110 of The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi, in fact. Obi-Wan still has his eopie and has moved to his new home; he's on his way home from the property office when he meets Annileen. And the story finishes well before he finds out about Darth Vader's existence, or about what Anakin did to the Tuskens.
So everything fits. Or as his former student later said, "There is no conflict!"
Which of the film versions of Obi-Wan influenced your characterization?
Both of them, to different degrees -- but naturally since the events immediately followed Episode III, I had Ewan McGregor's portrayal foremost in my mind. But there are lines (as there are moments in Ewan's performance) that do recall Sir Alec Guinness's take on the character. The novel is about the first steps along the path a young Jedi Master takes to being seen as Crazy Old Ben years later, so there's a natural progression involved.
Why didn't Qui-Gon respond to Obi-Wan? Did Qui-Gon really speak to Obi-Wan on Polis Massa?
These questions are related, so I'll address them together. In the Revenge of the Sith novelization, Yoda speaks of hearing the Force in Qui-Gon's voice — and later, tells Obi-Wan that he has new training for him to practice as he is alone on Tatooine. We do not actually see him contacting Qui-Gon in that sequence. Later, in James Luceno's Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader, it is established that Obi-Wan had not heard his Master's voice in years — meaning that he only heard Qui-Gon for the first time that day (well after Kenobi) when Obi-Wan learned of Anakin's survival as Darth Vader.
When I wrote the initial plot for Kenobi in 2006, I had read the ROTS novelization but had not yet read Dark Lord, so I worked under the assumption that some successful communication had taken place as of the time of Kenobi. The one meditation scene that was already in the book was the Kallie scene, and ghostly Qui-Gon was in it (although she did not see him; she only caught Ben's part of the conversation). Once I began writing the novel, however, I wanted to respect the information from Dark Lord, and so Qui-Gon was removed from the scene — even before we expanded the soliloquies to the whole novel. Once that expansion was made, of course, it gave the sequences a new poignancy, as they made Obi-Wan seem further alone, and engaged in a hopeless attempt.
But I still wanted Obi-Wan to start the exercise from a more hopeful position, as he had in my comics draft. That's why as of the first meditation, he is of the belief that he might have heard Qui-Gon during what would have necessarily been a very brief lesson on Polis Massa. As the book goes along, we realize he either doesn't have the knack yet or that Qui-Gon simply thinks it better not to respond -- and as time goes on, both Obi-Wan and the reader increasingly wonder whether the original contact really happened at all. By Chapter 27, he's not sure what he has to do to get an answer any more -- and clearly by Dark Lord he no longer believes it happened. Such an encounter would have felt unreal in any case, after all: there's got to be a did-that-really happen feeling that would strengthen as time passed with no response.
Now, while it was because of Dark Lord that at no point during the actual novel-writing did I consider having Qui-Gon respond, I have to admit I probably would have gone that way anyway. This story is about Obi-Wan learning to work out his own solutions as he lives in solitude; he doesn't need Qui-Gon to show up at the end to say "good work." I think the actual conversations are better left to later stories -- and there is plenty of time for them.
But I think that even then, their conversations would be small in number. It would be too easy to slip into a Mork-calling-Orson routine at the end of every travail. Just as Obi-Wan needs to be used sparingly to preserve the character's impact, I feel doubly that way about post-mortem conversations with Qui-Gon. It shouldn't be a reward, and it shouldn't be an every-day thing.
Was the name Orrin Gault inspired at all by some of the characters in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged?
As I have never read the book, no. I might admit to a little nod to Lonesome Dove's Captain Call in the first half of "Calwell," but that's about it.
How did the mention of Zayne and Kerra come about?
It came about naturally -- because it fit. It is, in fact, one of the more important sequences in the book.
Almost my entire body of Star Wars work has dealt with what it means to be a Jedi alone, cut off from the support and infrastructure of the Jedi order. Even Lost Tribe has that, in Jelph Marrian. Kenobi easily fits into that theme, and Obi-Wan is aware of it, mentioning the heroes from Knights of the Old Republic and Knight Errant, and the lessons of their lives.
Some feel (and often with good reason) that any reference by an author to his other works is prima facie gratuitous: in this case, I respectfully and completely disagree. I've been writing about the same theme all along -- Kerra Holt was created years after I knew what Kenobi was about -- and if any characters would be aware of the lessons from earlier Jedi loners' lives, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan would be first among them. The reader knows all those lessons already; why shouldn't the greatest Jedi of all?
There certainly wasn't any question of the Jedi forgetting about them. Tales and personalities from our own ancient times are in regular conversational use — we make major motion pictures about them — and we don't have the luxury of a Jedi library so vast that if a planet isn't in its database, "it does not exist." The Jedi Order covered up the story of Zayne and the Covenant, but it absolutely would have passed down the knowledge as a cautionary tale to future High Councils; and tens of thousands of refugees returned to the Republic with Kerra to thank for their futures. Most definitely, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon would know these and many more parables of the Old Republic, and would draw something from them.
So yes, it was intentional, and no, I wouldn't change a word -- not even to lampshade the references, as a reader suggested, by adding other examples I did not create. It's not necessary. An author has the right to tell readers what he or she thinks a body of work is about -- within the work itself, or elsewhere. And the reader is under no obligation at all to agree with that author's interpretation.
Is there any chance the book will be released with the Chris Scalf cover?
There is no such thing as a Scalf cover for this novel, though there is a lovely and powerful piece of promotional art — it appears above.
What has become known as the Scalf "cover" was, in fact, commissioned as a Powerpoint slide for the announcement at New York Comicon in 2012. It's obvious given that it's horizontal. I don't know if it was considered for the book itself, but I can see how it might be less effective when cropped in half -- you'd get the figure but not the sense of loneliness that makes the image work. It's a terrific piece, and it was used for the promotional poster and several other purposes -- but I think the book would have needed to be horizontal in shape for it to work as the cover.
Does Obi-Wan ever get a front door?
Yes, according to the Complete Locations guide. Nice and soundproof!
Will there be a sequel?
This is entirely up to you readers, to the publishers, and to Lucasfilm. I admit that when I wrote the plot it was intended to stand alone, and the story does that — but on finishing the novel I realized a number of other directions that could be followed. There are a lot of points on the compass unexplored, and a lot of years undescribed. If it made sense for everyone involved, I would be more than happy to visit Kenobi's world again. It was a fun place to spend a winter.