Timothy Zahn Isn’t Worried About Thrawn’s Onscreen Star Wars Debut

Toward the end of the “Star Wars Presents: A Writers Roundtable” panel at New York Comic Con, Lucasfilm/LucasBooks senior editor Jennifer Heddle asked her panel of writers to tease something they have coming out soon.

The room all but began to vibrate when Timothy Zahn said, “I’ve got a book coming out next April that deals with a brand new character from Star Wars Rebels.”

Applause and cheers nearly drowned out what he said next:

This is a prequel. This is going to show how he rose through the Imperial ranks to the point where he shows up in season three of Star Wars Rebels. You’ll see the season, and then you can go back and find out how he got to where he was.

James Luceno asked, “What was it like to write about your character from a new perspective?” and Zahn went into greater detail, explaining that Lucasfilm called him in last November with a very vague, “We want to chat about Star Wars” invitation. No one gave him any info, but he found out Rebels’ Dave Filoni would be at the chat—and then that a film crew would be present. And then:

They dropped the bomb on me the next day. I never would have envisioned, never would have expected this. I’ve hoped for years to see one of my characters brought into a movie or TV show or something else, but I never actually thought it would happen. It’s starting to feel real. For ten months it’s been kind of, This can’t really be happening, can it? And then when I saw Thrawn on the TV set in my own house? Ok, now I guess it is real. I do want to say that I’ve seen some of the scripts and for those people who are worried that they’re going to ruin the character: don’t. They’re doing a very good job.

Zahn also joked, “We’re thinking of getting buttons or shirts made that say ‘It’s Thrawn. You only think you’re winning.’”

Thrawn Timothy Zahn Star Wars 2017

James Luceno, who wrote the upcoming Catalyst: A Rogue One Story, held up a finished copy of his book and said that it will give readers greater appreciation for what goes on in the film—and background on the Erso family. E.K. Johnston said that her Star Wars: Ahsoka, which comes out Tuesday, starts “about ten minutes—slight exaggeration—after Order 66 comes down,” and follows Ahsoka’s adventures “or lack thereof” afterwards. Surprise guest Kieron Gillen, Charles Soule, and Chuck Wendig mentioned their upcoming projects. (Wendig teased that the Force Awakens comics adaptation may involve Phasma in a trash compactor. “I’m not saying we’re doing that,” he hedged, “but wouldn’t that be cool?”)

Heddle, as moderator, put her authors through their paces, asking about their influences, their favorite characters to write, and their writing habits, which prompted a bit of joking competition about who gets up earlier in the morning. First-time Star Wars writer Johnston gave credit to an under-appreciated side of the Star Wars universe when she said that while she used to play at being Leia… “I was 14 when The Phantom Menace came out, and so was Padme—and she had all these friends who were good at fashion and shooting people! That was super inspiring to me.”

Inspiration—and the generational component of both Star Wars stories and Star Wars fandom—were a big theme of the conversation, but Wendig really summed up the allure of the Star Wars universe when he answered Heddle’s question about what makes this fictional galaxy so appealing and inspiring for everyone:

Star Wars for me has this component—and it’s a really cool way to look at the world—in most of the stories, a small group of people can change the entire galaxy. That’s just a great thing for me, because sometimes things feel impossible and overwhelming without everybody on your side. Star Wars teaches you that with the right friends and whatever rat-trap spaceship you can put together, you can maybe change the galaxy and save the world.

Did that give you feels? That gave me feels.

A few choice tidbits:

  • Why is Star Wars so inspiring? “Lightsabers make a really good noise,” according to Kieron Gillen.
  • Chuck Wendig’s response to a fan telling him he got Han Solo’s voice right: “Yes, I can go take a nap now!”
  • “Writing Darth Vader’s fun. He’s quite perky,” said Gillen
  • E.K. Johnston’s favorite character to write “was actually a planet. And it was Alderaan. I’m sorry.”
  • Gillen described the range of Star Wars fans: “from 5-year-olds to people who are basically dead.”
  • According to Lucasfilm Publishing’s creative director, Michael Siglain, in the spring we can expect a Jyn Erso young adult novel by Beth Revis, and a middle grade novel from Greg Rucka. With next year being the 40th anniversary of A New Hope, they’re putting together a “curated” publishing program—look for news on that front from Marvel next week!

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