The High Republic is one of the biggest gambles the publishing branch of the Star Wars galaxy has taken since Lucasfilm was sold to Disney and its entire canon was rebooted. As Star Wars begins to explore the pathways of streaming and lies waiting at the box office for a few years, it’s unequivocally a setting the franchise will focus on keenly for years to come. Which is why, to the creatives leading the charge, it has to bring something fresh to the table.
Recently io9 sat down with the creative team behind the first wave of Star Wars: The High Republic fiction—including Light of the Jedi’s Charles Soule, Into the Dark’s Claudia Gray, A Test of Courage’s Justina Ireland, The High Republic’s Cavan Scott, and High Republic Adventures’ Daniel José Older, as well as Lucasfilm Publishing creative director Michael Siglain—to discuss the arrival of the initiative after a long year of teases and delays, as well as the need to tell Star Wars stories from new perspectives. Check out edited and condensed interview below!
James Whitbrook, io9: What has it felt like for you as writers and stewards of this new period of Star Wars finally getting to see it slowly make its way out into the world?
Charles Soule: Should we see what Mike thinks? I mean, Mike’s the guy who started this.
Michael Siglain: [Laughs] Why are you doing this?
Soule: This was your baby, from the beginning. I kind of want to know. I guess I could just ask you offline. But the people want to know!
Siglain: It’s—honestly? It’s very surreal. We’ve been working on this for years, literally. We’ve been pitching it forever. The writers have really gone above and beyond the call of duty here. And it’s unbelievable to finally have it almost out in the world, right? The stuff we’re dealing with today, the fact people are starting to get physical copies now...the fact that three weeks from tomorrow the first books hit...it’s truly unbelievable. It’s like Christmas. You’re so excited for it, but at the same time, you almost don’t want it to get there because it’s going to be over. And that’s sort of how it feels now. I can’t believe we’re here and I’m unbelievably proud of what these five authors have achieved here. It’s a bold, exciting new era— there are giant, massive stories, there are personal stories— it’s Star Wars. They’ve done a spectacular job of it. I’m at a loss for words, honestly.
Daniel José Older: To that point, when we said “we” we included Mike in there—you might not be an author, but he’s definitely the team leader and a creative force in all of this. It’s not some guy like, ‘It’s all bureaucracy, just check the boxes’—Mike has been a part of this initiative. He’s been so involved, creatively, and up in the mix throughout on every level. It deserves to be recognized.
Cavan Scott: We didn’t all just go into a room and go, “Hey, let’s go make the High Republic!” It needed vision and someone to gather the five best writers, obviously, he could get for it.
Older: I would say we’ve been so enmeshed in this world, with each other, it kind of crept up on me. It didn’t seem real until I scrolled past a tweet late at night, “In one month, the High Republic drops”—ahhh, I worked on that! It really threw me for a loop. And yeah, watching it take form...it’s so exciting.
Scott: We’ve got no idea what we can say and what we can’t say now. I’ve just got no clue where we are [in the timeline of releases].
Older: Darth Vader dies!
Soule: What really struck me, was that two and a half years ago, I didn’t know any of these people personally, except for Mike. And now I literally speak to them—there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t speak to them, whether on Slack or something else. And we’ve eaten and drank together, we’ve spent a lot of time hanging out. We’ve had fights and made up after arguments. We’ve created this beautiful thing together and that feels like a very Star Wars-y thing to me. People you don’t know, who come together, and something amazing happens.
Older: You can destroy the Empire.
Soule: For now to have it, like, becoming...the thing we all made together and will share with the world, and these early reactions—the people you want to love it are going to love it. It feels pretty damn good. And the fact that we didn’t do it by ourselves, we did it together. It’s really—very meaningful.
io9: Reading these stories, it felt like, even with the younger characters in the cast, they all approach the Jedi and the Republic and their place in it, in very different, fascinating ways. When you were forging the focal points of all these perspectives in all these ways...was that a conscious decision, to diversify the lens of the characters that we meet?
Claudia Gray: I think we were going to diversify every area of the characters that we meet. I do think we have a lot of kinds of Padawans. But I think we have a lot of different kinds of Knights and a lot of different kinds of non-Jedi characters, as well. It’s such a big world, you want to look at it through every lens you possibly can, I think—at least for me.
Scott: Part of the fun of it is working together, so when, say, Claudia and Justina comes up with a character and you think—[Vernestra Rwoh, the protagonist of Ireland’s A Test of Courage] is actually a very good example. Vern and Keeve [Trennis, the focal point of Marvel’s High Republic series] are at very similar times in their Jedi career—even though there’s a slight age difference or a massive age difference. It was really interesting to see Justina creating Vern, and it made me think “That’s interesting, that’s how Vern thinks about it—how would Keeve think about it? How similar are they? How different?” That’s where the joy of doing something with a group comes through because it forces you to make decisions about your character you wouldn’t if you were the only creator in the room. I found that throughout reading everyone’s pieces, so far, it’s changed how I view the High Republic. So that’s what I found so exciting about it.
Older: There’s a level we’re speaking at which we’re all authors in conversation with each other, quite literally; we read each other’s work, we speak about it with each other, and that sets us off in different directions with our own characters, but then, on another level, the characters themselves get to be in conversation with each other. So further on in the initiative, Lula [a key figure in The High Republic Adventures] and Vern have conversations about their relationship to the Force and being a Jedi—what that means.
But I think, specifically, for young people, what that means—the process of coming of age is about power, and misunderstanding, and learning and trial and error—and that’s so interesting to explore when we throw in something as gigantic as the Force, right? Something that’s so much bigger than them, the Jedi, specifically, at a time of crisis. And while we begin the High Republic at a time of peace and the height of everything, very quickly things go wrong. They get bad and difficult. So many of these other people—and young people today— are realizing how hard and heavy the world can be and what that responsibility feels like. Especially when they have incredible powers.
Scott: The flip side to that is it isn’t just the Padawans and the younger Jedi—we have Jedi that are really experienced. We’ve got the next up-and-coming generation of Masters such as Elzar and Avar, and then you’ve got Masters that have been around a long time, like Skeer who have their own idea of what the Jedi Order should be, and how it has been for so long. They find themselves in a position to reevaluate who they are as individual Jedi and who they are as a whole. I think that’s the really exciting thing because you can get the complete spectrum. I mean, we have some of these Jedi in the Order for literally hundreds of years at this point and you have Jedi who are being mentored, or yet-to-be mentored in the initiative. So, I think it’s fascinating.
Siglain: Yeah, just to add onto that—specifically to what [Cavan] and Daniel just said—what Claudia just said—it’s not just about the Jedi. It was very important for us to show these perspectives from across the galaxy. So, you’re going to see them when you dive in for the villains—there are very different points of view with the villain characters, the Republic characters, the Jedi. And yes, everything is immersive and new—nothing is deliberate. This is such a complex story that readers might not be aware of just how complex a story it is until they read all of these first wave of books, and then onto the comics and the second wave of books—and go “This is even bigger than we thought”—so part of the fun was the challenge of what the authors have to do here and really create something original. Create something that was still authentically Star Wars, and still top themselves at each level. Which they’ve really done an amazing job on.
io9: Some of my favorite parts of these first stories have been getting to see the non-Jedi characters in the Republic itself. Was there importance to start integrating those voices in these stories? Will there be High Republic stories to tell that don’t necessarily have anything to do with a member of the Order or just like, people who are living in this period of time, at the frontier of it all?
Soule: Absolutely. One of the things we’re doing as part of The High Republic is bringing back serialized fiction to Star Wars Insider. So, I am kicking that off with—again, I have no idea what day it is or when! But...tomorrow? There’s an issue of Star Wars Insider that will exist with a new piece of short fiction from me that follows characters from Light of the Jedi—Joss and Pikka Arden, who work in the mechanics’ corp, and I’m doing another story that will feature them set right after Light of the Jedi in an upcoming issue of Insider. There’s going to be more of that short fiction inside designed specifically to do what you’re asking—which is to focus on characters who are not the marquee Jedi characters. Because, you know, that motto from Light of the Jedi, “We are all Republic,” is something that I took very seriously, and I think we all kinda did, in that Star Wars is not just a story about space monks with laser swords. It’s a story about people, and people are vastly different. Not everybody has Jedi powers from the get-go. Some people have to find their strength, and have to build their strength, and start to find their place much further back than someone who’s been trained since they were three years old in a magical monastic order. So, we—all of us—are very focused on telling every kind of story in the High Republic, because there are interesting stories everywhere. Not just with the wizards.
Older: That’s part of what we did with IDW; immediately, we get into [the Jedi heroes of High Republic Adventures] meeting two young people who are out there in the galaxy who don’t totally trust the Jedi, and who grew up in an order of monks who are not supposed to use the Force. So it’s that clash of worlds, you know, where Padawans have mostly only been around Padawans. They go out in the galaxy, but this is a new experience for them. Meeting people who are like, “What are you doing?” And immediately we see one of them go off and line up with the bad guys. That gives us a really deep, inner understanding of how the Nihil works, up to the upper echelons of their leadership and what’s behind them and their long history and everything. So, there’s so much to explore and I think we all found different ways to get that into our stories.
Star Wars: The High Republic begins with the release of Light of the Jedi and A Test of Courage on January 5, 2021, with Marvel’s Star Wars: The High Republic #1 on January 6, 2021. Into the Dark and IDW’s Star Wars: The High Republic Adventures #1 will release on February 2, 2021, and February 3, 2021, respectively.
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