Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Daniel Wallace, who specializes in exploring the underpinnings of popular fictional universes. In his books including Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Characters and the recently-released DC Comics: Super-Villains: The Complete Visual History, he uses his comic book and sci-fi expertise to compile exhaustive histories of your favorite Jedi, bounty hunters, demons, superheroes, and archnemeses. Wallace has also contributed to the universes of Supernatural, Indiana Jones, and Smallville.
Join us, and find out why villains are the most fun to write!
What is your favorite short story?
Richard Connell’s “The Most Dangerous Game.” For my money, it’s the most entertaining tale ever told. I don’t care how many times the “protagonist gets hunted for sport” storyline gets played, I never get tired of seeing it. Double points if it’s a battle to the death inside an arena. Triple points if it’s Captain Kirk and a Gorn.
Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?
Wands require study and focus, so that choice is right out. My instinct is to go with the lightsaber, but if I jammed down on the phaser’s activator and waved it around like a crazy person, that would be even better. It would be a lightsaber with a mile-long blade.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
While researching the real-world history behind Star Wars Year By Year, I received a stack of rare Lucasfilm company newsletters from the late ’80s and early ’90s. Amid the clip art and black-and-white photos of employee picnics, I found an unreported story on a group of monks from the Gyuot order dropping by during 1988 to record their chants at Skywalker Ranch’s audio facilities.
Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.
Anything animated by Ray Harryhausen. I’ll give the edge to the Ymir in 20 Million Miles to Earth.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
Name your three favorite fictional villains of all time. Alternately: Heroes vs. Villains—which are more fun to write?
Villains! Flawed heroes are fun to write, but not all heroes are sufficiently flawed. Villains by their nature are hugely flawed and emotionally broken in all kinds of crazily dangerous ways. They’re fun to read about and, in a weird way, much more relatable.