Dear readers of The Force Unleashed,
Hey, thanks for loving my book! I was totally chuffed it did so well. The first computer game tie-in to debut at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list? Awesome. And your emails have been inspiring. Following-up a book that’s been so successful is not terrifying at all!
I signed up for an Old Republic® novel back when it was going to be the Old Republic® novel (this was long before The Force Unleashed II was on my radar, but more on that later). Things changed once we realized that anything TOR-related was going to be fundamentally different to the TFU line. In retrospect, I guess that should have been obvious. Maybe it was just me who didn’t get it straight away. Anyway, the deeper we got into it, the clearer it was that we couldn’t handle this the same way as the adventures of Starkiller and Juno.
For a start, Starkiller and Juno was all TFU was about. And by “all”, I don’t mean to be dismissive. I just mean that the novelization of TFU was tightly wrapped around the stories of two people in a neatly constrained time frame. It was based on a script that had a clearly defined beginning and end. TFU the game was, in other words, to a very large extent, already a story.
The deeper I read into the TOR documents—which, by the way, amounted to a very large pile of paper that I dragged everywhere me, annotating and scribbling until my eyes crossed—the clearer it became that TOR was a very different beast. An MMORPG has multiple arcs, long-running stories and, most importantly, no central character. The players define who they are, what they look like and what they wear, not the writers. How to moosh all this into one story? How to capture what I felt was the essence of The Old Republic® experience?
Well, there are probably several different answers to that question. The obvious one is to make the book as huge as possible in order to capture as much of this awesome new gamescape as we could. We also decided to set it just moments before the game begins so as not to provide any spoilers. The galaxy is on the brink of war; no one wants it, but everyone knows it’s coming. My story would capture that incredible tension, the feeling that at any moment a tiny spark could set the whole galaxy alight.
That was somewhat liberating, particularly compared to TFU, which had all sorts of constraints. (Don’t get me wrong: I like constraints. It’s just a different experience.) The issue then was: what story, which people?
Another difference between TFU and TOR is the existence of character classes. Obviously, they would all be represented in the book, but would they all be point-of-view characters? If not, which ones would miss out?
This is where I had to dig deepest of all. What’s an MMORPG about, really? What need will we be tapping into when we begin playing The Old Republic®? It’s adventure, the shared experience, puzzles, yes, yes, yes—but it’s also about advancement. It’s at least partly about the dream of being someone. Any player in the TOR universe can be a hero—or a villain, which is just a hero on the other side. Any player can be the star.
So when it came to choosing the main POV characters of the book that ultimately became Fatal Alliance, I angled for ones who were just starting out on their adventures, or were about to take a sudden turn in a new direction: the Padawan on the verge of becoming a Jedi Knight; the trooper who needs to regain her confidence before the war inevitably breaks; the Sith apprentice whose family history stands between her and advancement; and the spy who needs to fully break out of his shell in order to be truly alive.
That’s four POV characters. There are two more, standing a little out of the limelight—making six inspired by the game’s character classes: Jedi Knight, Sith Warrior, Trooper, Smuggler, Agent and Bounty Hunter. Through these six pairs of eyes, I hope the reader will get a thorough glimpse of what the Old Republic® is about. They can all be heroes, if they want to be.
Because of its size and scope, Fatal Alliance is a very different book to The Force Unleashed. It sprawls; it explores; it discovers; it surprises. There are moments of lightness threaded through six new adventures that are really just one, and it comes together in a way that I hope will delight all readers, whether they plan to play the game or not. That’s the business I’m in, after all, and that’s what Fatal Alliance must always be, in my mind. It’s not a manual; it’s a great read.
If you liked The Force Unleashed, I’m sure you’ll like this too. If you didn’t like The Force Unleashed and you’re reading this letter anyway, that’s cool. I’m not offended. Because it’s not really about me. Fatal Alliance is a Star Wars novel, part of a whole new saga, and that’s got to be worth a try. From the opening line, I think you’ll be hooked.
Anyway, it’s been nice chatting. If you’re going to San Diego Comic Con, drop by and say hi. I’ll be lurking about somewhere. Look for the guy with the southern hemisphere pallor and the big grin. I’m prouder of this novelization than any other I’ve written, and I’m very pleased to share it with you.