Between 1999 and 2009 Lightsabre.co.uk brought news, fanfic, podcasts and much, much more to the masses. Our sixty-fourth guest returned to the site after six years – the late, great Aaron Allston.
Lightsabre – Aaron, welcome back to Lightsabre.
AA – I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me back.
Lightsabre – It’s been a busy six years since we last had the pleasure of chatting, so what have you been up to?
AA – Lots. Lots and lots. Several novels, including Sidhe-Devil, the two New Jedi Order novels, two Terminator 3 novels, and now two novels in the Legacy of the Force series, and I’ve recently started on my third for the series. Plus I scripted and directed a very low-budget movie in 2005 – it’s still in post-production, a common fate for independent low-budgeters. It’s called Deadbacks, and we’ve been describing it with the line “Romeo and Juliet meets Night of the Living Dead.” I’m also working on a gaming project or two, I had a brief stint as a columnist for Amazing Stories magazine… I guess that’s most of it.
Lightsabre – Since our last conversation we’ve seen the release of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. How did you enjoy the final two Star Wars movies?
AA – Oh, with mixed feelings. I don’t think I was the target audience for them the way people born a generation or a generation and a half later were. But I really enjoyed the immersiveness of the environments, Ewan McGregor’s performances, the choreography, and lots more besides. Still, I’m clearly more an original trilogy sort of guy.
Lightsabre – Six years ago you were about to embark on what would become the Rebel Dream/Stand duology. Did you anticipate the New Jedi Order becoming such a huge success when you helped plot it out?
AA – I was brought into the New Jedi Order series after it had launched, so I really wasn’t responsible for much series plotting — just my two novels’ worth. And it was clear by the time I was brought on that the series was going to be a success. But even before that, knowing that most of the publishing line’s attention was going to be concentrated on the series made it very likely that it would be a tremendous success. So, really, it wasn’t much of a surprise.
Lightsabre – Now, a number of years removed from the last book, would you enjoy the challenge of returning to the X-Wing novels, or are they ‘done’?
AA – The farther we get from them, the more it feels like they’re done. I mean, to return to them, to pick up where they left off, would mean turning the calendar back nearly thirty years. If there were a call to do more X-Wing novels, it might be better to start with a whole new generation of X-wing pilots somewhere near the Legacy of the Force era, maybe after the main conflicts described in that series, and let Wedge Antilles enjoy retirement. However, it wouldn’t take much arm-twisting to induce me to write for the series again – the original series or a heavily re-tooled one. I enjoyed it a lot.
Lightsabre – You are still very much hands-on with your website. Given the huge upturn in the internet, do you still feel it is a vital tool for a writer such as yourself, the ability to directly interact with fans and readers?
AA – Clearly, that varies from writer to writer. With me, I come out of fandom, so it’s not an alien set of behaviors for me, there’s nothing weird or alarming about it. And on those occasions when I’m swamped with work, the fans tend to be very understanding when I have to take a break of a few weeks or even a couple of months from answering e-mail. So the easy access is a good thing.
Lightsabre – We asked you a question last time regarding the future of the Star Wars novels. You said “I’d prefer to see the Star Wars universe go in different directions. I’d like to see more novels invoke a sense of wonder through the exploration of the galaxy and the workings of the Force. I’d also like to see later-era characters patching up the gaps in their historical knowledge — the Empire years serve as sort of a firebreak between the NJO era and the prequel trilogy era, and it would be interesting to see the post-NJO characters rediscovering the past, digging up mysteries buried since Palpatine came to power.” Is that still how you feel today?
AA – To a certain extent. Some of that is happening, of course, particularly in Tatooine Ghost and the Dark Nest trilogy, with Luke and his generation learning more about the previous generation. There still isn’t as much Star Wars fiction as I’d like to see about less galaxy-spanning events, but perhaps the time for that will still come one day.
Lightsabre – You’ve become involved in another one of the great movie series, the Terminator. What research was required for the two novels you’ve written so far, and how much latitude were you given to ‘run with the ball’?
AA – Research chiefly involved reacquainting myself with the three movies, plus I got to read the novelization of the third movie well before that movie came out. Since the third movie pretty much wiped out the timelines of the Terminator 2 spin-off novels, I didn’t have to become massively familiar with them — though I did deal, to a certain extent, with the fact that those branches of time had pretty much been snipped by the events of the third movie.
Beyond that, research mostly involved specific settings that would be featured in the novels, specific weapons and gadgets that would appear, and so on.
As for how much freedom I had, I’d say I had considerable freedom… once I hit on an approach that appealed to the holders of the Terminator 3 license and Tor, the publisher. I think we started out with everyone, me included, floundering around with a sort of “I have no idea what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it” outlook. The first story proposal I sent them was darker and more fatalistic than the ones that were eventually accepted, though it did have two elements that survived into the later novels — a concentration on the events of the future in which John Connor led the human resistance, and a set of elite soldier characters called the Hell-Hounds. The elements of making a child of John and Kate one of the Hell-Hounds and beginning to focus on the human resistance leadership’s efforts to work toward a viable future instead of just survive their oppressive present began to give the stories a bit more of an optimistic feel, and once we had those elements in place the two books became much easier to lock down and get approved..
AA – Not at the moment, no.
Lightsabre – Explain to us, if there is such a thing, an average day in the life of Aaron Allston?
AA – Oh, sure. Average is getting up in the morning, anytime between 7 and 10 depending on how late I was up the night before. I’ll spend the first few minutes of the day caffeinating myself, then launch my word processor and look over the manuscript I’m currently working on. I’ll edit and polish the previous three days’ work, which brings me back into the story enough and gets my writing mental machinery operating enough that I can begin writing for the day.
I’ll write for three or four hours, then get some breakfast and take a break. Then I’ll do another three or four hours’ work, probably on the same project, though on occasion it’ll be a different project. Most days, that’ll be the end of the writing work for the day, so I’ll get some lunch, then turn to catching up with email, doing chores, and so forth for a while, though if I have a pressing deadline I may instead put in another three- or four-hour shift. And once all that’s done, I’ll become sociable with the other members of my household, maybe go out in the common areas and put on a DVD, maybe do some reading, maybe have dinner with housemates or friends.
Pretty boring, actually. What I like to tell people is that I’m an author fifteen or twenty days out of the year, and the rest of the time I’m a writer… and the lives of writers are not particularly interesting..
Lightsabre – Lucas is planning two new television series, set during the Clone Wars and the era between episodes 3 and 4. What tone do you think he will aim for, and what stories would you like to see told?
AA – Those two time periods are pretty bleak and uncertain times, and the new Battlestar Galactica series has shown that there’s an appetite in the U.S. today for TV science fiction that’s bleak and uncertain, so I’m wondering if those two series will resemble BSG in atmosphere. But I’m not making any predictions.
Lightsabre – It’s been a great interview, and thanks for being our guest. Just one final question. Lord Vader, Doc Sidhe and the Terminator are hired by WWE’s Vince McMahon and immediately thrown into a triple threat for the WWE Championship. But before they enter the ring, McMahon tells them they must have a new gimmick. The choices are:
1 – A clowns outfit?
2 – A dress?
3 – Play a ‘ladies man’ character?
But who chooses what gimmick?
AA – Whatever you were imbibing when you came up with that question is probably illegal, you know. Just sayin’.
Clearly, Lord Vader would demand the ladies’ man character, since anything else would be inappropriate for his position and stature. Doc Sidhe would take the dress, since it might cause opponents to misjudge him and because, as an elf, he might look pretty good in it, and the Terminator would take the clown outfit, because he doesn’t care, and because clowns are figures of terror for some people anyway.
This interview was originally posted on lightsabre.co.uk on 11th March 2007.