Every four years, there is a day that gives us all pause. It reminds us of the fact that we live in a crazy, mixed-up world, one where nothing is certain. No, I’m not talking about Election Day. I have in mind an even more bizarre occurrence –– February 29th, a.k.a. Leap Day. Because the Earth takes 365 days and 6 hours to rotate around the sun, the calendar gets a bonus day after four years (once 24 extra hours have accumulated). Thanks to this solar craziness, we get 366 days of the year 2012.
So how does this relate to Star Wars, you ask? Well, on this oddest of days, I thought I’d take a look back at over thirty years of Expanded Universe material and pull out a few of the GFFA’s own oddities. While the EU has its highlights and great stories, it has also collected quite a bit of bizarreness. What follows is a small selection of that bizarreness: a list of weird, quirky, awkward, or just silly EU material.
Happy Leap Day!
Waru (The Crystal Star)
Our introduction to this strange trans-dimensional being in Vonda McIntyre’s The Crystal Star says it all:
It was a complex construct of chased gold shields. But beneath the shields, visible from certain angles and at certain movements of the being, lay a slab of raw, uncovered tissue, like chunks of meat. Fluid –– blood? –– glistened between the massive shields, oozed out, and fell by drops and fine streams onto the stage, where it coagulated into a crusted pool.
The blood ran off the stage and formed stalactites that hung nearly to the floor of the auditorium.
That’s about where The Crystal Star started to get seriously weird. While I’m used to science-fiction elements in my Star Wars novels, a massive, scaly, oozing, parasitic creature from a parallel universe is almost the very definition of “Leap Day odd.” As if Waru itself wasn’t bizarre enough, its devotee, the magician Xaverri, speaks to it like a character from Shakespeare. “I have brought new students to study thy revelations, and learn thy truth, and appreciate thine existence,” she tells Waru. Author Vonda McIntyre, in a nice moment of tongue-in-cheek self-mockery, has Han critique Xaverri’s unusual speech pattern with the following internal monologue:
What is this, some obscure dialect–? Thou art, thou hast, thou wouldst… What did they just say? Thou wouldst hadst beenst…? No, that’s not right.
For overwhelming our ability to suspend our disbelief with both a trans-dimensional being and a Shakespearean magician, Vonda McIntyre’s sole contribution to the Expanded Universe makes my list of Star Wars oddities.
Trioculus and Triclops (The Jedi Prince series)
“Three-eyed mutant warlord.” That’s how Wookieepedia describes Trioculus, the Emperor-wannabe whose unusual persona was thankfully confined to the young-reader Jedi Prince series by Paul and Hollace Davids. This cardboard supervillain’s unswerving obsession with a “Jedi prince” named Ken served as a major subplot of the series, with consequences that too often bordered on silly. Now, you may be reading this and thinking, Could it get any weirder? As a matter of fact, it can and it does. As it turned out, Trioculus was only a pretender to the throne of the deceased Emperor Palpatine –– he claimed to be the man’s son, but the true heir to that legacy was a man named Triclops.
Triclops (note how helpfully similar their names are) was the son of a woman on whom Palpatine’s scientists experimented as part of the then-Chancellor’s obsession with the spontaneous creation of life. Trained in the Dark Side and crafted into a Force-using clairvoyant known as the Emperor’s Eye (blatant Emperor’s Hand ripoff, anyone?), Triclops may have found his title a bit cruel, due to the fact that, yes, he too had a third eye. In any event, Palpatine banished Triclops to the spice mines of Kessel when he proved to be a failure. It was on Kessel that Triclops met –– get ready to groan at the oddness –– a “Jedi Princess” named Kendalina. The two had a son, un-creatively named Ken.
The events of the Jedi Prince novel series unfold from there. You may be wondering how readers kept the characters of Triclops and Trioculus apart in their minds. The easiest way –– and the final piece of evidence in my summary of this series’ sheer weirdness –– is the fact that Trioculus had all three eyes on his face, while Triclops’ third eye was on the back in his head.
Luke and Leia in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye
I can understand how, in the absolute earliest days of the EU, it was difficult to establish a consistent portrayal of major (and thus ever-present) characters like Luke, Leia, and Han. Even so, Alan Dean Foster’s depiction of the Rebellion’s most famous brother-sister duo in the first-ever EU novel, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, makes for some of the strangest EU material ever to grace the page. Take a stroll down memory lane with me and read this actual passage from the novel, where Luke has to create a background for Leia while they’re undercover:
He thought furiously. “No, she’s… uh, I bought her.” Leia twitched, stared at him a moment before returning resolutely to her food. “Yes, she’s a servant of mine. Spent all my earnings on her.” He tried to sound indifferent, shrugged as he returned to his eating. “She’s not much, of course.” Her shoulders shook. “But she was the best I could afford. And she’s kind of amusing to have around, though she tends to get out of line at times and I have to slap her down.”
Yes, my friends: “I have to slap her down.” This is real dialog from the Star Wars novel that launched a literary empire. At times, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. For the record, Luke’s cover story of owning Leia wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable to read as Luke’s feelings about Leia. With lines such as “Moistly parted in sleep, her lips seemed to beckon to him,” it just doesn’t get much weirder than this. I highly recommend picking up Splinter of the Mind’s Eye if you want a concentrated dose of vintage Star Wars literature. If the Original Trilogy was Buck Rogers on the big screen, then Splinter is that same kind of campy, old-fashioned science-fiction storytelling in print. Think of the occasional moments of awkward sexual tension between two people who most certainly should not be fraternizing in that way as a bonus.
The Gun of Command (The Courtship of Princess Leia)
Any book called The Courtship of Princess Leia is going to have the sappy stuff; that much is inevitable. The artwork on the cover of the first edition (which was scrapped in favor of more action-oriented imagery for the paperback) likewise suggested some lovey-dovey stuff. What nobody could have predicted was how the budding romance between Han and Leia would take a turn for the weird when Dave Wolverton got his hands on it. It started with a Hapan weapon known as the Gun of Command, which, when fired at a target, would render that target completely susceptible to suggestions or orders from others. Now that we’ve established that this gun is basically mind control in a barrel, take a look at the following passage from Courtship:
“Look, Han, I’ll always be fond of you,” Leia found herself saying. “I know it’s hard.”
“But have a nice life?” Han asked.
Leia found herself shaking. Han strolled over to her dresser, and Leia saw that he was looking at the polished black metal of the Gun of Command. “Does this really work?” he asked. He started to reach for it, and Leia realized what he planned, shouted, “Don’t touch that!”
Han snatched the gun and spun, faster than she would have believed possible. He stood pointing it at her.
“Come with me to Dathomir!”
“You can’t do this!” Leia pleaded, raising a hand as if it could ward off the blast.
“I thought you loved rogues,” Han said. A spray of blue sparks erupted from the gun, bringing forgetfulness and the night.
Let’s recap, shall we? Wolverton took a healthy dose of romantic interest –– sexual tension, even –– and dropped it in a blender with mind control and kidnapping. Even considering the fact that they end up a happily-married couple, there’s still no getting around the fact that this scene was creepy beyond belief. It almost squared with what we knew of Han Solo from the films –– daring to the point of insanity and more than a bit smug –– but there’s something about kidnapping that tends to steer things in a bizarre direction. All in all, one might say that this book could have just as aptly been called The Abduction of Princess Leia. The more I consider this book, the more I wonder if anyone ever brought up its plot with Jacen, Jaina, or Anakin. It might go a long way toward explaining Jacen’s fall in Legacy of the Force.
The Darksaber (Darksaber)
I’d call it Death Star 2.0, but that name’s taken. In any event, the villains of the GFFA couldn’t quite stay away from super-weapons with giant lasers and secret plans. Darksaber, written by Kevin J. Anderson and named for the latest weapon of mass destruction, took some of A New Hope’s highlights and redid them in hokey novel form. Maybe it was the fact that a Hutt named Durga was the Grand Moff Tarkin of this particular doomsday story. Maybe it was the fact that Durga killed Alliance General Crix Madine on the Darksaber’s bridge just like Darth Vader struck down Ben Kenobi in the Death Star’s hangar. Darksaber wasn’t a bad book, just an odd one, but its oddities were substantial enough to earn it a place on this list.