I’m sure most Star Wars Expanded Universe fans have read at least one of the “Tales from…”/”Tales of…” anthologies. Each book includes a handful of short stories fitting into one of several themes. Del Rey has published collections for the Mos Eisley Cantina; the motley assortment of Original Trilogy bounty hunters; Jabba’s palace; the Empire; and the New Republic. One of the most interesting things about these anthologies was their reliance on minor and brand-new characters, not established favorites like the Big Three, to carry the plot.
Since these titles were released in the mid-to-late 1990s, there’s been an explosion of EU material that the compilers of the ”Tales” anthologies couldn’t possibly have imagined. Given the wide variety of eras open to exploration and the wealth of new characters, conflicts, and organizations popping up in these eras, I think it’s time to imagine what a new wave of short story anthologies might look like.
Tales from the Clone Wars
With the animated TV series on Cartoon Network picking up steam and taking things to the next level, there’s no time like the present to put together a series of vignettes about life on the front lines of the Clone Wars. Just off the top of my head, I can think of a ton of ideas for brief stories set against the backdrop of the Prequel Trilogy’s three-year war. Tales from the Clone Wars might include: covert ops commandos gathering intel on Separatist installations; a battle droid factory suffering a glitch and accidentally producing a handful of droids that can think for themselves and decide to renounce their CIS allegiance; a Jedi Master searching the ruins of a battlefield for his Padawan and being haunted by his past failures until he makes a grim choice; a senator from the Core Worlds visiting the terrorism-plagued Outer Rim on a humanitarian mission and getting caught in the middle of a hostage situation.
Tales of Black Sun
Various books have touched on the galactic criminal syndicate famously run by Prince Xizor, but in keeping with its name, this shadowy organization has never been thrust into in the spotlight. I hope that will change someday, because as cool as Black Sun is as the secretive group that gets referenced in hushed tones, I’d like to see its inner workings and explore some of the Vigo-against-Vigo drama that must be brewing at all times. Imagine a book whose short stories reveal the extent to which one underground group has affected the course of galactic history. Imagine Darth Sidious reaching out to Underlord Dal Perhi in the early days of his Empire, intent on fomenting as much unrest as possible so that his stormtroopers would be seen as peacekeepers instead of terrible oppressors. (Xizor’s appearance on the scene, seizing power from Perhi and freezing cooperation with Palpatine due to the Empire’s murder of his family, would make a great short story too.) Or what if a small group of Republic politicians secretly used Senate funds to order Black Sun hits on prominent Separatist generals and financiers? With a group as shrouded in mystery as Black Sun, the sky’s the limit (or would it be the sun?) when it comes to ideas for an anthology.
Tales from Cloud City
Before I suggest ideas for this book, it bears repeating that, in keeping with Tales anthology tradition, Lando Calrissian cannot be the main character in any of these stories –– even if he is “the administrator of this facility.” Still, the city in the clouds depicted The Empire Strikes Back offers a treasure trove of material ripe for the literary picking. In one story, Ugnaught workers uncover an Imperial plot to bug the city that would have exploited its under-the-radar reputation to catch fugitives from the Emperor’s justice. On another side of the floating landscape, a prominent carbonite salesman’s son siphons off portions of his father’s yield and sells it on the black market, only to get caught in the crossfire between two vicious groups of pirates. Meanwhile, danger strikes a class field trip below Bespin’s clouds as they encounter the planet’s native velkers. And just think of the tales you could tell about Cloud City’s famous Ice Cream Maker Guy…okay, forget that last part.
Tales from the Coruscant Underworld
Sure, it might be interesting to read a Tales from the Galactic Senate anthology, but if I’m picking one location on Coruscant to receive its own collection of short stories, it’s got to be the seedy venues and risqué establishments of the city-planet’s nightlife. Even when speeders piloted by Jedi Knights aren’t crash-landing in front of them, the clubs and bars of the galactic capital are teeming with excitement of the less-than-legal variety. One short story might follow a reformed death stick dealer who, after going home and rethinking his life, aids local law enforcement in cleaning up his city block. Another could focus on a Twi’lek dancer (I think writers are contractually obligated to make all nightclub dancers Twi’leks) looking into the mysterious death of her employer. Another riveting tale might feature a squad of stormtroopers stranded far below the comforting glow of Coruscant’s orbital solar mirrors, desperately trying to escape whatever industrially-mutated creature is stalking them in the dim, murky light of the underworld’s streetlamps. The book series Coruscant Nights offers just enough glimpses of this gritty realm to demonstrate the appeal of a full anthology.
Those are my ideas for future anthologies. If you think of other regions or aspects of the Star Wars galaxy that deserve their own short story collections, share your thoughts in the comments.