Star Wars New Jedi Order: Round Robin Interview (Part 3)
DR: How was internal consistency maintained—not only within NJO but back through the entire history of Star Wars fiction? Who was responsible for that?
SR: In a sense, we are all responsible for continuity. Leland Chee works here at Lucasfilm maintaining our “Holocron,” an archival database containing a huge number of entries. As outlines and manuscripts are submitted, Leland enters new data into the Holocron, which is then available for use by the authors and editors via CD-ROM. Initially we wrote an NJO bible for use by the authors, to give them a sense of what was going to happen in each of the hardcovers; we also included summaries of previous NJO books, et cetera. However, after the first year or so, the bible became too unwieldy to keep up, and the Holocron has been the main source of reference ever since. Leland has been indispensable as well, as he has created government flow charts, timelines of events, and various lists of characters, vehicles, locations, and so on. Leland is the “go to” guy whenever esoteric questions come up.
LW: When we first started doing original Star Wars publishing, the editorial group consisted of me, Sue Rostoni, and later Allan Kausch, who was originally hired as a continuity consultant. Howard Roffman, president of Lucas Licensing, was also creatively involved, and we would get input from George Lucas through a series of Q&A memos in which we asked for guidance on big plot points and ideas. In order to track continuity, both the editors at Lucasfilm and the editors at our licensed publishing houses would combine their efforts—primarily based on who had the best memory. Our RPG licensees were integral to this early on, as they tended to publish the most detailed material of anyone. The early system of tracking continuity was for a question to be called out (by phone or by yelling down the room or corridor) in the hope that someone would remember and have an answer—very high tech, as you can see. As the Star Wars universe got more and more complicated, I recognized the need for a full-time person to track the material in a database, and Leland was brought on board to do that in February 2000.
SS: Before Leland and the Holocron, I relied (and I still do!) on Jim, who originally came on board to help with the NJO bible and quickly became an authority on continuity.
JL: I’d like to take all the credit, but I relied in turn on Stephen J. Sansweet’s recently published Star Wars Encyclopedia, Dan Wallace’s, Bill Smith’s, and Bill Slavicsek’s guidebooks, and a slew of fan glossaries and compendiums. And, of course, once it was available, the Holocron!
Early on, though, the NJO wasn’t intended to incorporate a great deal of Bantam continuity. We didn’t want to alienate (so to speak) a new generation of Expanded Universe readers. This certainly was the case in Bob Salvatore’s Vector Prime, and to some extent in Mike
Stackpole’s duology. But by the time I was writing Agents of Chaos, Del Rey was receiving emails and letters from fans imploring us not to abandon the Bantam continuity. The hard-core readership wanted one story—and we’ve done our best to give it to them. Given the wealth of background material, writing a Star Wars novel at this point is almost like writing a work of historical fiction!
DR: I’ve heard that the name Yuuzhan Vong came from a restaurant menu during an early editorial powwow. Any truth to that?
LW: You bet. Yuuzhan Vong, as well as many other brilliant ideas over the course of history, came from food.
SS: Lucy and some of us Del Rey people were eating lunch at a wonderful French-Thai restaurant called Vong here in New York City. I suggested using Vong for the alien invaders. But we wanted something more, and perusing the menu, I came across their list of teas, which included a mention of the “Yunan region.” We tossed around ideas and came up with Yunan Vong. We added an extra n, making it Yunnan Vong. But a week or so later, we decided that we wanted it to sound more alien and less Asian, so we changed it first to Yuzzan Vong, then to Yuzhan Vong, and finally settled on Yuuzhan Vong.