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On the day his latest Thrawn epic lands, Timothy Zahn talks with StarWars.com about Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising and the early days of the future strategic genius.

StarWars.com: The Chiss Ascendancy and their homeworld, Csilla, are at the forefront of this story. How did you approach developing the intricacies of this society?

Timothy Zahn: I added a few hints here and there in the other books. I’ve made mention of the Nine Ruling Families and how that number can shift and how you can be rematched to a different family. The idea was that you have a sort of hereditary rule, like the Borgia family of Italy. But in this case, people keep coming back in and out of the family so you don’t have the stagnation that you could easily get. So, it was a matter of, “How do I relate these things together to build a coherent society?” I had the four corners of the house but now I had to build out the interior and a lot of interesting things occurred when I started to do that. A lot of it is what’s called, “consequence testing.” If there are these nine ruling families, how does the rest of society work? I decided early on that the Chiss don’t have the same democratic branches that we’re used to in the US. All that happens within the Syndicure. So, I figure out, “How does that work, how do you keep it stable, how do you keep it from becoming an overall dictatorship?” Well, all the families infight. You take all these things and try to make something that will work, that will function. Again, I had the basics for this book, I just needed to start filling it all in. Their culture is an interesting mix of constant familial squabbling until there’s a clear and present danger and then they all come together. You do not want them on the same side if you’re planning on attacking them, they’re not the kind of opponent you want to face.

StarWars.com: The Chiss also have an interesting outlook on the rest of the alien species within the Chaos. Why do they feel like they’re above everyone else?

Timothy Zahn: This is another example of consequence testing. If you’re going to say you don’t care that a species or planet is being beat up by the bad guys and that you’re not going to interfere until it directly affects you — that kind of attitude leads to thinking that they’re inferior, that your own people are more important. It all ties back into itself. Thrawn thinks that’s a very short sighted view and you see him discussing this with Ar’alani and her response is, “Well if we start to help others, where do we stop?” One of the fun things about this sort of book is being able to deal with real-world questions and issues but in a world that isn’t our own. We’ve got this whole ethics conversation about what responsibilities a super-power society has. The goal is to set up that idea to the readers in a fair way, to pose the questions and the plus and minus sides so that the reader can make up their own mind.

Our reviews of the novel and the audiobook will be landing on the site later this week.

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Star Wars: Thrawn Ascendancy (Book I: Chaos Rising) (Star Wars: The Ascendancy Trilogy)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Zahn, Timothy (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 400 Pages - 09/01/2020 (Publication Date) - Del Rey (Publisher)