There are many professions in the galaxy, everything from wandering Jedi warrior to trash-compactor operator.
Sommelier has to be one of the more glamorous, although it still involves getting your hands stained.
In The Last Jedi, ex-stormtrooper Finn and Resistance mechanic Rose Tico venture to the casino city of Canto Bight on a covert mission, trying to blend in amongst the glitterati who travel here from afar to frolic and gamble away galactic wealth.
There are many inhabitants of this place, and a few of their stories will be told in the Dec. 5 story collection Star Wars: Canto Bight, written by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller.
Now, Entertainment Weekly offers an excerpt from one of the tales, the story of expert wine-hunter Derla Pidys in Grant’s “The Wine in Dreams.”
“It’s a city filled with opportunity. There are very high stakes,” says Michael Siglain, creative director of Lucasfilm Publishing. “This is Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for Star Wars. But looks can certainly be deceiving, and everything isn’t always as beautiful as it seems.”
The excerpt’s arrival comes on Nov. 17 — which also happens to be “Life Day,” for those fans who celebrate the space holiday introduced to Earth on this date in 1978’s Star Wars Holiday Special.
So, let’s toast to Derla Pidys as she arrives for work…
THE GREATEST JOY OF HYPERSPACE IS THE BRILLIANCE OF ITS LIGHT. There is a radiance that can never be matched, or even truly described to those who have never seen it. Derla Pidys closes her lower eyes as her ship drops from the glory of hyperspace into orbit above Cantonica. The stars flash into being, dazzling bright in their own right, if not the impossible glory of their hyperspace shadows.
The planet below her is dark, the sky a dizzying web of ships being pulled into place around the curve of the horizon. She presses the trigger for her prearranged docking, and feels the ship shudder around her as the autopilot engages with the beacon. Relaxing into her seat, she adjusts the folds of her sommelier’s robes and allows herself to anticipate the glory that is to come.
Hyperspace cannot be matched, but it can be challenged. And the architects who set the sky above Canto Bight ablaze will never cease their efforts. The legend of the city grows, its seeds planted by moments such as this—and perhaps, to someone with more limited vision than her own, the challenge is a closer one.
Her ship sails smoothly along the beacon’s route. The world curves below her, dark, purposeless Cantonica, and then, in the time it takes for a millitile to vanish into its hidey-hole, the horizon catches fire.
It is the burn of uncounted lights, of beams slashing high into the atmosphere, as if they would sever the stars and take them for their own. It is the rainbow radiance of Canto Bight, the only reason any sensible creature would travel to this otherwise pointless planet. Canto Bight, the city of dreams, the destination of uncounted sentients, all of them following one legend or another, most chasing a lie. Derla smiles, wishing she were not on her way to work, so she might toast the brilliance of the story unfolding in front of her.
She is not the only sommelier working this sector, but she is, without question, the best. Any wine merchant and liquor trader can claim her title as their own, if they like; she’s not the one to stop them. What they can’t claim is her peerless skill, her ability to assess the quality of any alcoholic beverage from a single sip. Nor can they claim her track record. Despite peddling her wares to representatives from dozens of species, she has never been the source of an accidental poisoning. It is a point of pride, and part of what has grown her reputation—her legend—to its current heights. She is a sommelier. She is the sommelier, the one to call when everything must be perfect.
Arriving on the dark side of the world merely for the sake of this moment is a small indulgence. It wastes time, which is the only resource more limited than wine itself. But the time is hers to waste. Time that is never spent in any frivolous way will turn to vinegar even as wine does, as wasted as too much time spent heedlessly. Balance in all things.
She could never live here—the costs, in every sense, are simply too high—but there is a sweetness to the lie of Canto Bight that sings to her sommelier’s soul. It began, as most beautiful things do, with money, with ambition, and with deceit. “Come to Canto Bight, the greatest city of pleasures the galaxy has ever known,” they cried, and if they lied in the beginning, the ones who carry the cry now are telling the complete and utter truth. They crafted reality out of story.
Derla respects that. She has carried wines that her more sophisticated customers would consider little better than vinegar to backward farming planets where the names on their labels and the scent of distance clinging to their corks rendered them the finest vintages anyone had ever seen. She has taken the wines of those same worlds— common, ordinary things to the gawping farmers who press the grapes in their basements, who bottle their own harvests simply for the sake of having something to wash the dust away—and sold them for profits that would stun their vintners into silence. It is the story that moves the bottle, as much as the taste of what’s within.
This came from a city so far away and famous that its name would burn your uncultured tongue if you tried to speak it, she says, and hands reach out to grasp the glass, currency spilling from their palms.
This was crafted by simple farmers, aged on a world untouched by modern notions, as pure as the Force itself, she says, and people who would never step foot on that world’s soil stumble over themselves to claim it first.
Everything is the legend. Everything is the lie.
From the book STAR WARS: CANTO BIGHT by Saladin Ahmed, Rae Carson, Mira Grant, and John Jackson Miller. Copyright © 2017 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Reprinted by arrangement with Del Rey Books, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.