A lot can happen in 32 years of space-time. In the Star Wars universe, we’re about to find out just how much. At least 20 new books will be released this fall—some of which take place right after Return of the Jedi ends.
The books—which range in target age from children to adults—will be loaded with foreshadowing about the upcoming movie, including new starships, planets, characters, and clues about what happened with Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and Han Solo in the months following the Return of the Jedi.
Disney Publishing Worldwide and Lucasfilm confirm that the titles will be filled with Easter eggs foreshadowing events in J.J. Abrams’ Dec. 18 movie.
This new initiative comes after Lucasfilm announced last April that existing novels, short stories, comics, and video games that explored the so-called “Expanded Universe” of Star Wars were being discarded from the official storyline. That freed the new movies from having to follow any previous story points, such as Luke’s relationship with the previously villainous (turned good) Jedi Mara Jade, or Han and Leia’s marriage and twins.
Fans who’d been exploring these corners of the galaxy for ages knew a reboot was coming. As Yoda once said: “You must unlearn what you have learned.” These new books, however, like the Rebels animated series on Disney XD, will be considered official canon.
This new series, which spans multiple publishers, will be known as Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Pulling it off required one clandestine society of authors to form a bond with another hush-hush society of screenwriters.
“The Force Awakens is an extraordinarily, heavily guarded storyline. To track it, a lot of top-secret meetings were happening up in San Francisco as we worked through this program,” says Andrew Sugerman, executive vice president of Disney Publishing Worldwide. The company is managing the release through its own imprints as well as at least seven outside companies, among them sci-fi publisher Del Rey, DK, and Marvel Comics.
Novelists and editors had a constant back-and-forth exchange of ideas with the Lucasfilm story braintrust, comprised of the screenwriters and filmmakers crafting both the new trilogy and stand-alone movies.
“The partnership with the story group and the editorial team always had to be true to the sanctity of the film while making sure that we find these moments to introduce hints, clues, and puzzle pieces,” Sugerman says. “Without revealing what those pieces are, it will just allow readers to speculate about the new film: What could a location mean, or what could a character mean?”
Many of the books are still being written and edited, so details (including who is writing them) are still under wraps.
A few titles we can confirm are Del Rey’s Star Wars: Aftermath, which sounds like it may serve as an epilogue to the original trilogy—and perhaps a prologue to the new one. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics will put out one prequel called Star Wars: Journey to the Force Awakens and another preview story told from C-3PO’s perspective. For vehicle enthusiasts, Studio Fun International will print Star Wars: Ships of the Galaxy.
Also intriguing, although not strictly part of the “Journey To …” the next movie: Look for a series of novels retelling the events of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi from the perspective of various supporting characters. Which ones? The publishers aren’t saying just yet. (Fingers crossed for a Behind the Music-style look at what Sy Snootles and the Max Rebo Band thought was happening in Jabba’s throne room.)
Disney-Lucasfilm Press will release novels that focus on characters from the original trilogy. The aim is for YA readers, providing a deep dive to readers who were decades from being born when Han, Luke, and Leia first hit the screen. “It’s a way to introduce the heroes and villains of that original trilogy to a new audience that might not be as familiar as the audience that went and saw the films when they first came out,” Sugerman said.
Cecil Castellucci (author of Tin Star) will write Moving Target, an adventure following Princess Leia; Jason Fry, who earlier wrote Darth Maul: Shadow Conspiracy, will be the author of The Weapon of a Jedi, about Luke Skywalker; Claudia Gray, author of the Evernight series of fantasy books, will write a book titled Lost Stars; and Greg Rucka, a comic book scribe and writer of the Atticus Kodiak novels, will pen Smuggler’s Run, a Han Solo tale.
One publishing phenomenon you shouldn’t expect from Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens?
In other words, no Yoda-themed 50 Shades of Green.