Fans Were Out in Full Force at Star Wars Celebration Chicago

Fans came to Star Wars Celebration Chicago from all over the world. Some live just a couple of hours away in a town in Illinois, some made the trek from the east and west coasts of the United States, and some even settled in for hours on a plane from places as far away as England, Spain, and Japan. The one thing that surrounds them and binds them all together? Their love of the galaxy far, far away.

Steve Jackson didn’t have to go far to reach the bustling halls of the convention center from Chicago, being from the Windy City area himself. But it was his first ever Star Wars Celebration, he said. To mark the occasion, Jackson dressed as the striking Count Dooku, and the resemblance was uncanny.

Count Dooku cosplay at Star Wars Celebration Chicago

Jackson represents the 501st Legion’s Midwest Garrison and his take on the mysterious Count rightfully turned heads and camera lenses on the show floor. He told about what caught his eye on the show floor. “I’m enjoying the large props,” he said. “I’m enjoying the photo opportunities, and I’m a member of the 501st so I’m enjoying that particular area, as well. I’m meeting a lot of people.”

Also local to the area, the Kowalski family from Oswego, Illinois, weren’t there for their first Celebration — it was their sixth! With mom Diana, dad Chris, five-year-old Ben, and nine-year-old “super fan” Jude, each dressed in creative costumes as Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy, John Williams, George Lucas, and J.J. Abrams, respectively, it’s plain to see that every member of the family is a Star Wars fan.

Family of cosplayers dressed as Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, J.J. Abrams, and John Williams.

“It’s been a great experience so far,” Chris said on just the first day of Celebration. As parents unable to wait in long overnight lines, Diana said, she was thrilled with the new lottery system in place for Celebration’s biggest panels. “We’re very excited we got in for The Mandalorian panel,” she said. “We never would have been able to actually wait in line, so we’re thrilled about that.”

Illinois residents Maricruz Rojas and Rose Tintera also didn’t have to go far for Celebration, but that doesn’t mean they were any less excited. Delightfully decked out in fuzzy Wookiee Mickey ears, Rey-inspired ensembles, and glittery Star Wars accessories and buttons galore, it’s no surprise that the two were smitten with the costumed attendees at the show.

Rey cosplayers at Star Wars Celebration.

“Everyone dressed up in cosplay is just so amazing, and everyone is so creative. There’s swag, props, everything!” said Rojas.

“[It’s] our first time here. We didn’t expect all of this, but it’s amazing,” agreed Tintera.

Padmé Amidala cosplay at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

The queen of dressing up at Star Wars Celebration just might have been Queen Amidala herself, cosplayer Kelly Coffman, who donned an intricate, beaded gray gown. Coffman, also known as Eveille Cosplay, painstakingly sewed and assembled one of Padmé’s most regal and iconic looks from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. The Pennsylvania-based cosplayer drew an adoring crowd befitting royalty everywhere she went on the show floor.

Padmé Amidala cosplay (back of head) at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

“I made the whole costume myself,” Coffman told “I started in the summer of last year, worked on it a few months, then took a small break and finished it up for C2E2… It took me about 500-600 hours to build everything, and everything is from scratch, the beading, just all of it. I tried to make it as screen accurate as I could, so I did a lot of research on the materials.”

The debut of the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker trailer was her favorite moment of Celebration, she said, and the moment was very emotional. “It was amazing!” she recalled. “I was in [the arena] so I got to see everyone on the stage, see the trailer, get chills, and cry. Everything.”

For George Kostal in particular this Star Wars Celebration was unforgettable. The Connecticut-based fan, who was attending his second Celebration, runs a Twitter account dedicated to General Veers of The Empire Strikes Back called Veers Watch.

Kostal decided to take a chance on meeting Andi Gutierrez, co-host of The Star Wars Show, after she interviewed actor Julian Glover on the live stage. “I had actually been hoping to meet her for most of the convention because she was an early follower of Veers Watch,” he said. After returning to the stage when the show was winding down, Kostal luckily flagged down Lucasfilm producer Scott Bromley, who insisted on introducing him to Andi.

“It was really just the coolest thing,” said Kostal. “She was so nice and great to talk to, and then while we were talking [Star Wars Resistance’s] Christopher Sean — another Veers Watch follower! — actually came by after filming his interview to say hi to her, so I got to meet him as well.”

Star Wars fan at Star Wars Celebration Chicago.

Of course, Celebration wouldn’t have been complete without meeting his hero. “Beyond just meeting everyone, [another favorite moment has] got to be going back to see my good man [General Veers actor] Julian Glover, getting his autograph on a few more things,” Kostal said. “I found a Veers storyboard at the Prop Store of London, and I picked that up for myself. Very happy! It’s been great.”

From dazzling costumes, to memorable panels, to meaningful moments, to meeting Star Wars heroes, there really is something for everyone at Star Wars Celebration. Who knows what your favorite moment might be at Star Wars Celebration Anaheim in 2020?

Visit’s Star Wars Celebration Chicago hub for panel recaps, interviews, and more.

Kelly Knox is a freelance writer who loves creating Star Wars crafts with her daughter. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox.

Fans Were Out in Full Force at Star Wars Celebration Chicago

SWCC 2019: Star Wars Pinball is Coming to Nintendo Switch – Exclusive

Later this year, Nintendo Switch players will feel the Force — and the flippers. is thrilled to announce that Star Wars Pinball is heading to Nintendo Switch, both on the eShop as a digital download for Pinball FX3 and as a physical retail release on cartridge. The game will come packed with its previously released collection of 19 digital pinball tables, including those based on the prequel, classic, and sequel trilogies, Rogue One, Solo, and the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The Switch edition is also getting all-new modes: the community-based Galactic Struggle, which allows players to contribute points to the light or dark side; a new Career mode, in which fans choose the side of the Jedi or Sith as they work their way up the ranks; and a Force Training mode for pinball Padawans. It also comes with features that take advantage of the Switch’s unique hardware, notably HD Rumble and vertical screen orientation — meaning if you’re playing on the Switch console itself, you can turn the device on its side for a taller screen. Moreover, the game’s release will be a historic one, as it will be the first Star Wars game ever released on Nintendo’s latest console. caught up with Chris Baker, Zen Studios’ creative director, to discuss Star Wars Pinball’s move to Switch, why vertical play might be Switch players’ new preference, and continuing the tradition of Star Wars on Nintendo platforms.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot. Fans have been asking for this for a long time! How does it feel to finally get to tell them that Star Wars Pinball is coming to Switch?

Chris Baker: You aren’t kidding! Ever since we announced that Pinball FX3 would be available for Switch in late 2017, “When is Star Wars coming?” has perhaps been our most frequently asked question. And the answer…this September! But the thing is, Star Wars Pinball is so big and special, we just had to do more for it.

Not only are there 19 total tables that touch every corner of the Star Wars galaxy, but we’ve also got several special Star Wars-themed modes that you’ll only find in this Switch release. And those of you who like having your own physical copies of games will be happy to know that we’re not only available digitally on the eShop, but also at retail, which is a first for Star Wars Pinball, and only for Switch.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot. As a Star Wars Pinball fan, I’m especially excited about some of the Switch-specific features, namely HD Rumble and vertical screen orientation. From a developer perspective, what do those add to the gameplay experience?

Chris Baker: As anyone who has ever played Pinball FX3 will tell you, pinball titles from Zen work amazingly well vertically. I personally like to switch things up between horizontal and vertical modes, but for a lot of people, once they try vertical, they just can’t go back. It gets even better if you have a peripheral like Fangamer’s FlipGrip that makes playing vertically much more ergonomically pleasing. Ultimately, it just feels more realistic to play vertically, as pinball itself is a much “taller” game than it is a “wide” one. When you throw in HD Rumble to literally shake things up at key moments, it really does feel like you’re holding your own personal mini-pinball table.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot. What can you tell us about the new modes for this Switch edition?

Chris Baker: Star Wars Pinball has quite a history and a well-known set of features across several platforms. For the Switch, however, we still wanted to add something special to make it stand out more.

One of the simpler additions is the Cantina Jukebox, where you select your favorite music to listen to while navigating the menus. It was a bit of a popular request, both in-house and from our players. It’s Star Wars music — how could it not be, right?

A bit more ambitious is the Career mode, where you can explore all the tables across a range of short, bite-sized challenges. Given the Switch’s portability, sometimes you might just not want to commit to the intense concentration necessary for playing a full table, and that’s where the Career mode’s shorter gameplay sessions come into play.

Here, you can complete five operations, each with a set number of missions of increasing difficulty such as beating the three target scores in the more familiar five-minute, one ball, and survive modes — and we are working on even more new modes that we can talk about in the future. Occasionally you can also hop into the cockpit of an X-wing or TIE fighter and complete a mission on a given table’s mini-playfield. You can even take on Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel.

Collecting Holocron Shards in these missions also lets you unlock certain Force Powers and Talents, granting various bonuses and helping you earn higher scores later on. As the missions will get gradually more and more challenging, you will definitely need them.

If you manage to collect all the Holocron Shards, the Great Holocron will be yours, granting an additional level to each of your accumulated Force Powers and Talents! Star Wars has a big legacy on Nintendo platforms. What does it mean to the team to now be a part of that legacy?

Chris Baker: Star Wars really does feel at home on Nintendo platforms, doesn’t it? When I was a kid, I played through both NES games and all of the Super Star Wars titles on Super NES. And then, of course, came Shadows of the Empire, which was a powerhouse for Nintendo 64 — just like Rogue Leader was for GameCube! So, as someone who was there for all of that, as both a fan of Star Wars and gaming, I can honestly say it’s nothing less than an honor to be associated with this great line of Star Wars games on Nintendo platforms.

The fact that physical copies will be available only for Switch somehow makes it feel even more “real.” I, for one, can’t wait to see my name show up on the leaderboards — and promptly blown apart like Alderaan once all the real gaming pros start playing. With enough practice — enough Jedi training, if you will — that can literally be anyone reading these words right now.

Attending Star Wars Celebration Chicago? Be sure to visit the Zen Studios booth (#5215), where you can play Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch!

Check out more screenshots of Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch below.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Star Wars Pinball on Nintendo Switch screenshot.

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Site tags: #StarWarsCelebrationChicago2019

SWCC 2019: Star Wars Pinball is Coming to Nintendo Switch – Exclusive

The Multiverse Is Rocked in Ravnica: War of the Spark, the First New Magic: The Gathering Novel in 5 Years

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Magic: The Gathering isn’t just a card game. Thanks to the hardworking creative team at Wizards of the Coast and a truly impressive rank of contributing writers—including Brandon Sanderson, Kate Elliott, and Martha Wells—Magic also encompasses one of the most compelling and expansive ongoing stories available to fantasy fans. Magic releases out several new sets a year, each accompanied by new stories that add new narrative arcs to the decades-spanning, multiverse-hopping epic.

The upcoming release of the latest expansion set, War of the Spark, is an especially big deal for fans, promising as it does the highly anticipated confrontation between the villainous Elder Dragon Nicol Bolas and the Gatewatch, an assemblage of Planeswalkers (mages who can travel between the Multiverse’s various “Planes” that are the settings for Magic’s gameplay and story) led by fan-favorite characters Jace Beleren, Liliana Vess, Gideon Jura, and Chandra Nalaar. The Planeswalkers haven’t always gotten along, but with a threat as dangerous as Nicol Bolas and his zombie army ravaging the streets of Ravnica—and the fate of the very Multiverse at stake—they must set aside their differences and put an end to the Elder Dragon once and for all.

For the first time since 2014, Wizards of the Coast, in partnership with Del Rey Books, is publishing a new, standalone Magic: The Gathering novel—Ravnica: War of the Spark. At the helm is Greg Weisman, a writer best known for his work on Gargoyles and Young Justice.

We won’t know for sure how the conflict lays out until the book is released on April 23, but Nic Kelman, head of story and entertainment with WotC, was kind enough to give us a sneak peak at one of the many storylines contained within its pages. Here, we’re introduced to two high-ranking members of the Izzet League—a guild of zany inventors with an explosive thirst for knowledge:

Ral Zarek has been second-in-command of the Izzet League for far too long, but now is his moment to step into the spotlight. Niv Mizzet has revealed his plan to defeat Bolas to the brilliant Storm Mage and, as part of that plan, Ral will finally take over as Guildmaster of the Izzet. Unfortunately, to prove his worth and for Niv’s plan to work, he has to engage in a clandestine mission to unite all 10 guilds in a revision of the Guildpact itself…all while avoiding Bolas’ assassins.

I caught up with Kelman to chat about the new novel, Weisman’s work, all of Ral Zarek and Niv-Mizzet’s shenanigans, and what to expect next for Magic: the Gathering’s story.

(And, since I know I’m not the only one excited for the new set, stick around after the interview for the reveal of several exclusive spoiler cards!)

What can fans of Magic expect from Ravnica: War of the Spark?
Without a doubt, the most epic Magic story to date—as is fitting for the climax to several years of build up! Some will live and some will die, but lots of questions will be answered and the future of the Multiverse will be changed forever…

What about non-fans? Can they read Ravnica: War of the Spark if they’ve never played the game before?
Absolutely, 100 percent. Author Greg Weisman did an unbelievable job of introducing the setting, the backstory, and every character with a context that never feels out of place for the story. You can (and should!) definitely pick this up as a fan of fantasy fiction who knows nothing about Magic: The Gathering. It’s as great an entry point to our fiction as it is a conclusion to the last few years of story.

Ral, Storm Conduit is one of many new Planeswalkers in the set—what does this new card tell us about Ral and his place in the story?
Ral—and his incredibly powerful lightning magic—are central to the novel and to the prequel novel by Django Wexler (which is available for free from the Del Rey website). The idea here was to convey that power and strength in a way that would leave no doubt about Ral’s importance to War of the Spark.

Greg Weisman revealed that Ravnica: War of the Spark will have a dozen protagonists and over 100 named characters. How did Greg and the creative team keep control over such a large cast?
It wasn’t easy. Greg, of course, has experience with large casts working on shows like Young Justice. But beyond that, Greg, myself, Tom Hoeler (the editor at Del Rey), and our Consulting Loremaster, Jay Annelli, went through the outline and manuscript many times specifically looking for tracking issues. Jay, in fact, created a pretty incredible tracking spreadsheet which listed every character and their place in the story in every chapter. It’s my not-so-secret dream to have that spreadsheet turned into an art poster at some point in the future…

It’s no secret that Ral and Niv-Mizzet both have huge personalities and egos to match—they’ve been working together as leaders of the Izzet guild. What kind of fireworks can we expect when things get serious on Ravnica?
A good amount of the prequel novel by Django Wexler dives into this relationship and I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice it to say it develops in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect. I mean, Niv-Mizzet is the Firemind after all!

Wizards of the Coast has introduced some terrific authors to the fold late, each bringing their own touch to the Magic story. What did Greg Weisman bring with him?
Greg was the perfect choice for launching a new series of Magic novels with War of the Spark because he’s used to handling large casts, complex plots, and to making superhero archetypes feel like real, living, breathing people. Knowing how to balance the real estate between character moments, action, and plot in a novel about an epic battle like this one is a skill that has to be developed over years and Greg has that ability.

Greg Weisman has announced he’s working on another Magic novel following War of the Spark, and Django Wexler announced a prequel book set before War of the Spark—what can fans expect from these books?
Django’s prequel is all about the lead-up to War of the Spark—and did I mention it’s going to be available for free if you sign up for the Del Rey newsletter? It sets the scene on Ravnica and arranges all the “pieces” into the state we find them at the beginning of the war. In many ways, it serves the same purpose for all the local characters that the last few years of short stories have served for The Gatewatch. It’s very much a “cold war” novel, drawing for inspiration on all the cold war fiction classics but with a healthy dose of awesome action too.

We don’t want to say too much about Greg’s second novel just yet, but it is not a “part 2”—War of the Spark is self-contained and book 2 picks up the story after a very clear ending in book 1.

Traditionally, the Magic story has followed the events of the most recent set release for the card game—do these future projects from Wexler and Weisman mean we’ll start seeing stories released that don’t necessarily take place in the same location as the current set?
Yes, that’s correct—we’ll be doing both. Hopefully the fans of Magic story will be excited to be getting more of their favorite characters more consistently instead of having to wait until they rotate back into standard!

What else is coming up for Magic story?
We have some very exciting things coming down the pipe—it’s going to be a big year for fans of Magic story!

We’re also pleased to be able to exclusively reveal three new cards in the new expansion. Let’s take a look:

If there’s anything Ral Zarek loves, it’s casting spells, and this new Planeswalker will let you do that multiple times each game—and make your opponent pay each time you do it with Ral’s powerful static ability. Or maybe you’re looking for that one card in your deck that will close out the game? Ral’s ability to “Scry 1” lets you look at the top card of your deck, and shuffle it to the bottom if you don’t like what you see!


Remember what I said about Ral? He loves to cast spells, but not so much getting bolted in return. This allows intrepid Planeswalkers to dance around their opponent’s most dangerous spells, and maybe even send it right back at them. Ouch.


Izzet is known for two things: damage and card draw. Ral’s Outburst combines the two in a single card that, cast at the right time, could turn the tide of a game. Wonder what Ral’s so upset about?

How are you preparing for the War of the Spark?

The post The Multiverse Is Rocked in Ravnica: War of the Spark, the First New Magic: The Gathering Novel in 5 Years appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Lucasfilm Readies Massive Mural for Star Wars Celebration Chicago – Exclusive

Artist Jason Palmer was 13 in 1977 — a significant age in a significant year. “Is there a better age to be when Star Wars comes out?” he says, laughing, to “No.” His family couldn’t afford the toys, but Palmer read Marvel’s Star Wars comics, and found that the galaxy far, far away sparked something inside him. “I was absolutely in love with Star Wars, and I drew it all the time,” he says.

Fast forward a few years. Done with school and working a job he didn’t want in his late teens, Palmer decided to make a go for it as an artist. He had no real training or any idea of how to pursue art as a career, but he did know one thing: the legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan — his favorite artist — lived within driving distance. Palmer cold called Struzan, who invited him over without hesitation. “He became kind of my mentor,” Palmer says.

Over the years, Palmer learned the art of poster illustration from a master. “My education is, basically, going to his house, showing him what I’ve done since the last time I saw him,” Palmer says. “He would tell me where it was better, mostly how I was making the same mistakes in a new way, and I would ask him questions about what he was doing.” Through Struzan, Palmer came to understand layout and emotion, particularly in more complex pieces. “Drew always taught me language,” he says. “He was able to explain the whys to me.”

All of this — drawing Star Wars as a young teen, learning from Struzan — has led to Palmer’s current project: a massive mural, meant to capture the whole Star Wars saga, that will debut at Star Wars Celebration Chicago. You can see the original trilogy section below, exclusively on

“The original idea came from [Lucasfilm President] Kathy Kennedy,” Lucasfilm Vice President and Executive Creative Director Doug Chiang tells “She asked if we could create a piece of art that would encapsulate the entire Star Wars saga, visually representing the complete stories of Star Wars through art. In thinking about how to fulfill Kathy’s wish, the idea of creating a giant mural timeline was born.” Chiang has served as art director on the project, ideating what it could and should be, and working closely with Palmer.

The original trilogy section of the Star Wars Celebration Chicago mural.

The original trilogy section of the Star Wars Celebration Chicago mural.

“I wanted the scale to be theatrical,” Chiang says. “I felt it was important to make the mural as large as possible to mirror the cinematic experience. At 10-feet-tall and 88-feet-long, it’ll be unlike anything we’ve done before.” Once complete, the final mural will feature every Star Wars movie, including Episode IX, as well as the Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated series, with each entry given its own segment and equal footing; in other words, Star Wars: The Clone Wars will have the same real estate as Star Wars: A New Hope, illustrating Star Wars as one large story.

Chiang initially worked with Erik Tiemens of the Lucasfilm Art Department to design a preliminary composition; since there was so much to convey, he broke the mural down into three basic levels: an overall color timeline to show the emotional arcs of the films; key, iconic characters in large portraits; and major action moments. Then came perhaps the biggest hurdle: who was going to paint it?

“Originally, because of the scope of the work and tight schedule, I was going to contract several artists, each taking on a portion of the mural,” Chiang says. “But after speaking with Jason and seeing his work, it became obvious that it would be ideal for him to do it all. My main concern was the schedule. We had only six weeks to complete the mural, which is a ridiculously short amount of time. Normally, a mural of this complexity and scope would take several months. But Jason stepped up and took on the challenge.”

“You have to have an overall feel for it, and flow,” Palmer says of his approach, and making sure all the disparate elements blend together. “Each thing will shine in its own way.” He looked for patterns in Star Wars that could create a visual continuity: Circles are prominent, he found, from the Millennium Falcon to the twin suns of Tatooine to BB-8, as are triangles, in Star Destroyers and other craft. He looked for color feels, noting that Return of the Jedi strongly evokes green thanks to Luke’s lightsaber and the Endor landscape. Coupled with Chiang’s breakdown, this mindset led to a sense of motion, and the utilization of sweeping lines to guide the eye across the painting, evoking a mythic feel, and bursts of paint to add a dreamlike quality. “You have to make rules, think them through — what do I want people to feel?” he says.

This also meant balancing the figures in each section, from size to aesthetic — including those from animation. To bring animated characters from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels to life in this realistic style, Palmer turned to a surprising reference point: cosplayers. “It’s just easier if you have someone with a perfect costume posing for you,” he says.

In just a few weeks, the finished art will make its debut. “I’m thrilled for fans to see the mural,” says Chiang. “This mural is unique. For the first time, fans will be able to enjoy seeing the complete story of Star Wars in a continuous timeline. I can’t wait.”

Painting digitally, Palmer bought new hard drives and has maxed out his RAM working on the mural. It’s a long way — yet also kind of not — from filling the margins of his junior-high notebooks with Star Wars drawings. “I get to show it all, which is awesome,” he says. “And I feel like I’ve been preparing for it my whole career. Maybe since 1977.”

Get a sneak peek at Amazon-exclusive products based on the mural below:

Buffalo Games

Buffalo Games Star Wars Celebration Chicago puzzle.

Puzzle available for pre-order.


Northwest Star Wars Celebration Chicago blanket featuring art depicting Star Wars: A New Hope.

Northwest Star Wars Celebration Chicago blanket featuring art depicting Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

Northwest Star Wars Celebration Chicago blanket featuring art depicting Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Blankets available for pre-order: Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.


Star Wars Celebration Chicago Insulated Tumbler with Wrap & Lid, 16 oz Tritan, Clear.

Star Wars Celebration Chicago Insulated Tumbler with Lid, 20 oz Stainless Steel, Silver

Star Wars Celebration Chicago Insulated Tumbler with Wrap & Lid, 24 oz Tritan, Clear.

Insulated tumblers (16 oz., 20 oz. stainless steel, and 24 oz.).

Do you think your favorite scene or character is depicted in the mural? Find out at Star Wars Celebration Chicago on April 11-15, where the artwork will be showcased at the event and sold exclusively through

Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content strategist of online, the editor of, and a writer. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.

Lucasfilm Readies Massive Mural for Star Wars Celebration Chicago – Exclusive

Story and Song: A Conversation with Sarah Pinsker

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Nebula Award-winning author Sarah Pinsker is having a big year: Her short fiction collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, and her debut novel, A Song For a New Day, both arrive in bookstores in 2019.

The collection, released in March, is one of virtuosic range, imagination, and subtlety. Sarah Pinsker’s mastery works at a deep level, eschewing showy displays or baroque prose. Many of the stories are set in a dystopian, all-too-believable future not far removed from our own, with a tone and focus reminiscent of Alice Munro.

I caught up with Sarah to talk about the themes of music and dystopia that permeate her stories, how she balances the dual pursuits of music and writing, and more.

It seems clear from these stories that music is an important part of your life—and that making music is as important to you as writing fiction. Can you talk about how music and fiction complement one another in your artistic process—and where they may, at times, conflict?
Where they complement each other is on a prose level. I think writing music gives me a good ear for the rhythm of sentences and paragraphs. I think I’m also pretty good at writing about music, which can be a tricky thing, too. And about music-related technologies, which have given me some fun ideas for stories and novels.

There’s other stuff, too. The business of music taught me a lot about the business of writing. Being a musician taught me a lot about being an author. Little things like microphone technique, caring for your voice, adjusting levels or microphone stands, dynamic reading. How to be a good member of a community.

The most obvious conflict is in the fact that my fourth album is mixed, mastered, ready to go to press— I have everything but the cover art—and it has been that way for three or four years. The producer is ready to start handing out bootlegs. My music has definitely suffered from my fiction-writing. I still love to play, but I’m not putting time into booking or touring or getting that album out the door. I love it. I love every single song on it and everything we did with it. And I can’t seem to make it happen. I’m trying.

A wealth of varied lived experience comes through in these stories. At the same time, the focus is often on the future—an apocalyptic, post-climate change landscape. The result is what feels like an extended love song to the world, as it feels like much of what we know is about to slip away.
I can’t tell you how much I love this take on my stories. Also, this may be a short answer, because yes. I feel like anyone who is paying attention is scared right now. I can’t shake a feeling of decay, and yet I still see beauty everywhere. I meet wonderful people. I have a new dog who has invented the fifty cutest ways to sleep. I have nieces and nephews who bring me constant joy. I get to go amazing places and see amazing things. But there are also progresses that I would have said were permanent a few years ago that now feel fragile. There’s a combination of beauty and brokenness just permeates everything.

Not all of my stories are set in the future, but the futures I find most compelling to write are the ones where there are things that are broken, but also good people, and good things, and joys, writ small or large. So yes, what you said, an extended love song to the world. What’s the quote from Don Quixote? “Maddest of all: to see life as it is, not as it should be.” When I write I try to see what is, what should be, and what shouldn’t, and pick a path accordingly.

One thing that especially impresses me in your stories is their magnificent closing passages. Do you consciously make story endings a high priority?
Thank you! I take that as the highest of compliments. I love endings. You have to stick the landing, like a gymnast, or the bobble at the end is all that people remember of the story. I have several favorite endings that I read and reread, and those are the ones I return to when I need a reminder of my goals. I read them again, out loud, and then I read mine, and I see if I have the rhythms right. The list includes One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Great Gatsby, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” and “Sur,” Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea,” Kij Johnson’s “At the Mouth of the River of Bees,” Butler’s “The Evening and the Morning and the Night.” Endings should resonate in your mind, in your heart, and on your tongue.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea has a distinct voice, while also seems to be in dialogue with classic authors of science fiction. Who are some of the authors that inspired you?
See above. I have read a lot of classic SF. I grew up surrounded by great fiction, and I don’t remember how I decided what to read. Lots of single author collections. Le Guin, Delany, Sturgeon, Simak, Wolfe, Merril, Kit Reed, Kate Wilhelm. Then the stuff that came later, Jonathan Carroll, Octavia Butler, Karen Joy Fowler, Lisa Goldstein, Elizabeth Hand, Geoff Ryman, Kathe Koja, Ted Chiang. All the Dozois year’s bests, and the Datlow/Windling ones, though I had to tread carefully—I can read dark fantasy, but I don’t have much tolerance for horror.

The concluding story of the collection, “And Then There Were (n-1)” on the surface pays homage to Agatha Christie’s mystery novel, with an undercurrent that is intensely introspective. And you fearlessly used your own name. What was the genesis of this story, and how did it take shape?
In April 2016 I was asked to attend the Uncanny retreat as a guest author. I arrived that weekend knowing I needed to get started on a story for the Sycamore Hill workshop in June. Every time I get asked to attend Sycamore Hill my brain starts telling me I have to write the best story I’ve ever written, which is a lot of pressure. Anyway, it was April, and somebody brought marshmallow Peeps, and on Saturday there were just ten of them sitting around on a plate. We somehow ended up turning them into a Peep retelling of And Then There Were None, killing each one off according to the novel, and posting the horrors on Twitter over the course of Saturday evening.

The next morning, I woke with the title “And Then There Were (n-1)” and the idea of an isolated convention of alternate-selves who would need to kill or be killed. They were all Darias at the time, like the cartoon character. I came up with a catchy enough beginning, but I couldn’t seem to find the story’s heart. At some point in the drafting process, it dawned on me in horror that I knew how to make the story work, but it was going to take some blood and introspection. The Sarahs in the story are not me, but there are truths hidden among the fictions. It was interesting finding the balance.

How did your background as a musician figure into the composition of “Wind Will Rove,” which uses music as the jumping-off point to explore universal themes?
Well, I wouldn’t have written this story if my aunt hadn’t invited me to an old-time music jam on New Year’s Eve 2014. I don’t know the tunes, but you can be an ignorant guitarist and still play along. Guitar is a rhythm instrument in old-time music, playing backdrop to the fiddle, so all I had to do was play the same handful of chords and watch for the changes. My hands were busy but my mind was wandering, so I started looking at the room ethnographically, watching the group dynamics. Marveling also at how you could get so many different melodies from the same three chords.

The jam took place in the house of someone who also makes and sells model trains, and his whole basement is an incredible model train town. Beyond the town, there are cliffs, and rivers, and they all look so real you could take a picture and say you were in West Virginia, and I think I started thinking about that as well, about faithful and not-so-faithful recreations, and the sun that wasn’t a sun, the water that wasn’t a water, the abundance of punny business signs.

It took me a few months before I had anything to write, and then the first scene came to me whole. I don’t know that I changed a word from the first draft of that scene other than to tighten it. That June was my first Sycamore Hill, and the first time I thought “I have to write the best story I’ve ever written.” I took that scene, and the New Year’s jam, and the artificial sun from the train town, and started thinking about the way songs evolve. I spent a lot of time listening to old time music and reading the origins of different songs, trying to write a realistic history of an imagined song. I know what it sounds like.

Eventually, I struggled through a first draft that I was proud of but not done with. The workshop was amazing but overwhelming, and I came home with notes from some of my favorite writers, each diagnosing my story differently. I sat on it for a year before I figured out how to internalize those edits and how to decide which ones I agreed with. I think the last paragraph stayed intact, but I unstitched the stuff that came before and rewrote some of it.

All of which is to say my background in music was certainly helpful for this story, but it was a combination of a lot of things, like most of my best stories.

You have a novel coming out soon. Can you tell us a bit about it?
My first novel, A Song For A New Day, will be published by Berkley in September. It’s a near-future story set in a soft apocalypse, where society is mostly still functioning, but fundamentally changed. It follows two characters, a musician who some may recognize from “Our Lady of the Open Road” who remembers what life was like before, and a young woman who has never known anything but the new status quo. It’s about music, and community, and found family.

Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea is available now.

The post Story and Song: A Conversation with Sarah Pinsker appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Star Wars Battlefront II Brings Players New “Capital Supremacy” Mode

During last summer’s EA Play media briefing, DICE’s Dennis Brannvall took the stage to tease a brand new multiplayer mode for Star War Battlefront II. “We’ll be delivering a large-scale multiplayer sandbox experience focused around capturing command posts and attacking and taking out capital ships,” shared the game’s franchise design director.

Brannvall immediately followed the announcement with news he and his team would also be responding to fans’ overwhelming requests for Clone Wars content by adding heroes, villains, and planets from that “iconic Star Wars conflict.” As Battlefront II players are well aware, DICE began making good on that promise last fall, bringing General Grievous, Obi-Wan Kenobi, new clone troopers, and the planet Geonosis to the game. More recently, the Clone Wars updates continued with Count Dooku and Anakin Skywalker joining Battlefront II‘s villain and hero rosters, respectively.

General Grievous versus Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Battlefront II.

As it turns out, the new mode announced at EA Play not only serves as a natural complement to the last several months of Clone Wars updates and additions, but a climactic celebration on that fan-pleasing path. “So we’ve been in the Clone Wars for quite a while now, and we’re really viewing this mode as the culmination of this part of the live service for Battlefront II. It’s also the biggest battle we ever see in the film, and we wanted to see if we can recapture that excitement in our game,” shares Brannvall in a recent interview with

Officially dubbed “Capital Supremacy,” the large-scale mode will double-down on delivering that Clone Wars fantasy over two unique phases. The first will see two teams of 20, plus 12 AI soldiers on each side, vie for control of five separate command posts spread across Geonosis’ sprawling surface; once a team has taken a majority of those posts, they can then progress to the second phase, which tasks them with boarding the opposition’s capital ship before trying to take it out by setting timed explosive charges.

Whether siding with the Separatists to bring down the Republic Attack Cruiser or helping the Galactic Republic turn the Dreadnought to dust, this second phase — according to Lucasfilm games team Senior Producer Orion Kellogg — plays a significant role in fueling that Clone Wars fantasy. “When you board the ship at the end of each ground map, you have the exciting opportunity to add reinforcements to your cause. The clone troopers are going to be getting out of the LAAT gunship and the droids have cleared space for their HMP gunship to take off and head into the atmosphere, so you’ll see all that. Being able to get into a ship and head up into the atmosphere and board…it’s a real nostalgic thrill appropriate for the Clone Wars fantasy.”

While the intense exchanges of blaster fire and clashing lightsabers might keep you from sightseeing during the mode’s epic boarding sequence, Kellogg urges fans to take a second to spy the ships’ impressive interiors. “We’ve worked with assets from the show [Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series], our creative director, Hez Chorba, and, of course, all of the DICE art team to bring the Venator and Dreadnought interior to life in a way we’re really excited about. We’ve even gotten down to the way we’re painting vehicles to make sure these all come from the same point in the Star Wars timeline. Everywhere you look should feel like an authentic Clone Wars fantasy.”

Building on Kellogg’s enthusiasm for the mode’s presentation, Brannvall promises the core gameplay — particularly in selling that massive-scale, Clone Wars-era vibe — will sport the same attention to detail. “We really wanted to make it feel large-scale, epic, and very Star Wars. It’s some of the largest Star Wars experiences we’ve ever built. It’s more spread out and we’ve added AI to both sides. So not only is it a 40-player mode, but we’re actually adding even more playable boots-on-the-ground with AI soldiers joining in.”

The addition of computer-controlled infantry is completely new to Battlefront II, but a key element in supporting Capital Supremacy’s immersive scale. “It’s the first time we’re doing it with soldiers running around. We’ve had it before in starfighter modes, and that’s been quite successful for us in not only providing a larger scale experience in the field, but it’s also really fun for players. Even if you get defeated by an enemy player, you might have taken out quite a few AI before you got shut down; so it really empowers the player and makes them feel very heroic,” continues Brannvall.

On top of having extra bad guys to blast, players can look forward to a more free-form, objective-filled experience when they hit Capital Supremacy’s battlefront. “It delivers a bit more freedom when it comes to what you want to do, a bit more choice in terms of where you need to go to be effective. If you manage to get a hold of a Republic walker or a Separatist tank, where do you want to go with it? It’s not an attack/advance scenario like our Galactic Assault maps, where one team is always playing on the defense. There are more objectives on the screen for you to worry about; there’s the command posts you’re fighting over with 40 people, plus AI that are trying to catch you. There’s lot of things to defend or run towards in order to take it back, so we’ll keep you moving a lot more,” explains Branvall.

The command posts — which longtime Battlefront fans might remember from the original 2005 game and its sequel’s Conquest modes — play a particularly integral role in defining Capital Supremacy’s tactical gameplay, says Kellogg. “The command posts really make the battlefront. They put the battlefront in the player’s hands, so they can look around and get a quick sense of where they need to be. And with all the great heroes, villains, vehicles, and clone troopers at your disposal, you get to be tactical in an instant. The command posts really help make this an empowering mode.”

Commando droids in Star Wars Battlefront II.

Of course, while attempting to take these coveted spots, you’ll also need to stay a step ahead of the mode’s two new reinforcements, the Galactic Republic’s dual-wielding ARC troopers and the Separatists’ vibrosword-swinging droid commandos. “Those two characters are spicing things up quite a bit because they are reinforcements rather than heroes and villains. We can have many more of them running around at the same time, so you’ll see a lot of those flanking you, and trying to carve you up with their sword or their pistols.”

Upon being reminded how “deadly and fast-moving” the droid commandos are, Kellogg jumps in with some Capitol Supremacy strategies for existing players. “The first thing I’d say is don’t sleep on the boarding sequence. It’s definitely important to prevent the other team from loading up a whole ship, because the more points they gain there, the better chance they’re going to have taking down your capital ship. I’d also say don’t give up. If you’re able to reject an attack on your capital ship, you’re going to have a chance to come back to the ground and get back up to their capital ship. There’s a bit of a tug of war, so even when it seems dark, you’ve got an opportunity to turn it around and win.”

While Kellogg hopes to give seasoned fans a leg up with his advice, he also encourages less skilled players or complete newcomers to join the fight. “You don’t always have to be on top of the leader boards or capturing a command post to have an incredible time in this mode. There are many ways to contribute to your team’s success. When you are in the Venator or in the Dreadnought, you’re going to assist your team by taking down the opponent. But on the ground, when you’re boarding the ship, just getting into the ship — and bringing additional reinforcements with you — is going to give your team a better chance of survival when they levy their attack.”

Whether you’re a longtime Battlefront II fan craving fresh content or a Clone Wars geek getting into the game for the first time, Capitol Supremacy has something for Star Wars enthusiasts of all stripes.

Capital Supremacy is now available as a free update for players who purchased the base Star Wars Battlefront II game.

A full-time freelance writer born in Lizzie Borden’s hometown, Matt Cabral has covered film, television, and video games for over a decade. You can follow him on Twitter @gamegoat or find him in the basement of an abandoned building hoarding all the canned goods, med-kits, and shotgun shells.

Star Wars Battlefront II Brings Players New “Capital Supremacy” Mode

Talking Star Wars Tech with Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

One of the hallmarks of science fiction is its tradition of introducing new and sometimes inconceivable technology to audiences’ imaginations. Since 1977, Star Wars has been enriching the possibilities of tomorrow and broadening the ways in which technology could, one day, reshape our lives. What’s best about the future, though, is how it eventually becomes the present. Jump ahead from 42 years ago, and we find that “one day” is becoming today.

For over four decades, the Star Wars universe has played a significant role in either evolving or creating forward-thinking tech that, at the time of inception, was considered limited to the boundaries of speculation and made possible only through the magic of cinema. The examples are nearly endless; from lightsabers to jetpacks to body armor, Star Wars has made the impossible possible in countless ways. But it’s all existed only on the screen — until now.

A newly launched exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago (MSI), Wired to Wear™, is showcasing the latest in wearable technology, and many of the items on display have their roots firmly planted in the Star Wars universe. While there are no actual Star Wars props on display, the parallels to real-world tech that visitors can see there are staggering.

Boba Fett in Jabba's palace.

According to Dr. Voula Saridakis — who is a dedicated Star Wars fan (she saw The Empire Strikes Back 10 times in the theaters) in addition to being a MSI curator — Star Wars has shown people how certain technology works while making it possible to visualize what it would be like to actually use it. Like most Star Wars fans, Saridakis’s mind quickly gravitated toward Boba Fett and his iconic Mandalorian armor as an example.

“Someone like Boba Fett has made it easier to visualize how a jet suit could work,” Saridakis said. “It’s just one thing, of many, that shows the intersection between Star Wars and this wearable tech.”

In fact, the exhibit has a Gravity Jet Suit (created by Richard Browning) on display, and it looks, and operates, like a prototype of Mandalorian armor. Users don an exoskeleton — helmet included — equipped with five jet engines: four connected to the suit’s arms and one connected to the back. It boasts over 1,000 horsepower, travels at over 30 miles per hour, and can soar 12,000 feet in the air. The suit included in the exhibit, in fact, recently broke the Guinness world record for fastest jet suit — take that, Boba.

But, the technology on display in both the exhibit and the Star Wars universe extends far beyond cool armor and nifty gadgets. The advancements also have more practical, medical applications. Prosthetic limbs (after all, it wouldn’t be Star Wars if someone wasn’t losing a hand) are showcased prominently in the exhibit — and the prosthetics aren’t limited to traditional replacements of, for example, a lost hand. Because why simply get a new hand when, instead, you could have a cannon?

Thanks to recent innovations in prosthetic tech, that is becoming possible. A group of engineers called Hackerloop has developed the first-ever prosthetic cannon that can connect to someone’s forearm and fire toy darts. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Also on display is a prosthetic innovation from Youbionic, a prototype that would replace one hand with two bionic hands, both fully controllable.

General Greivous battles a Jedi in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

“Why have one hand when you can have two?” Saridakis asked. “It’s a lot like General Grievous — half humanoid, half machine, and very much part of the Star Wars universe.”

Like the Star Wars universe itself, the artifacts on display at Wired to Wear are many and varied. From iridescent clothing that looks like something Padmé

Amidala would have worn when she was queen of Naboo to environmental suits that would come in handy when lost in the belly of an exogorth, there’s countless pieces of tech for Star Wars fans to delight in.

Wired to Wear is currently running and will remain at MSI until May of 2020, with entry tickets $5 off during Star Wars Celebration Chicago. Be sure not to miss it if you’re visiting Chicago for Celebration, April 11-15 at McCormick Place.

Michael Moreci is a comics writer and novelist best known for his sci-fi trilogy Roche Limit. His debut novel, Black Star Renegades, is set to be released in January 2018. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelMoreci.

Talking Star Wars Tech with Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry

In Which Author Zen Cho Is Interviewed by Her Husband About The True Queen

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

UK cover of The True Queen; author photo by Jim C. Hines

Today, we’re pleased to kick off Other Halves, a new and hopefully irregular interview series in which authors are interviewed about their books, writing process, and the weirdness of the literary life. And did we mention that the person interviewing them will be their spouses/partners/significant others?

We kick off the series with the author who came up with the idea in the first place: Zen Cho.

Zen is the author of Crawford Award-winning short story collection Spirits Abroad and the editor of the anthology Cyberpunk: Malaysia. A nominee for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, her short fiction has been honor-listed for the Carl Brandon Society Awards. Her debut novel, Sorcerer to the Crownabout magic, intrigue and politics in Regency London—won a British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer and was a Locus Awards finalist for Best First Novel. The sequel, The True Queen, was released this month.

Zen’s husband Peter teaches 16th- and 17th-century literature at the University of Birmingham, UK. His all-time favorite fantasy hero is Mr. Benn.

Peter: The True Queen begins with two people washed up on a beach. It made me think of Twelfth Night and The Tempest, but I’m guessing that you weren’t thinking of Shakespeare. Are there moments when you write that you’re thinking about scenes in other works, or from real life?

Zen: You know I wasn’t thinking of Shakespeare! You’re not the first person to notice Shakespearean parallels, though. My editor at Pan Macmillan, Bella Pagan, also mentioned them.

I was going indignantly to deny that I ever thought of scenes in other works when writing because of not being a plagiarist, but then I realized I do frequently riff on common tropes. And so does every genre writer – the body discovered in the library, the epic final battle with the Dark Lord’s hordes, the barbed exchange with the romantic interest in a ballroom. I try to avoid specific scenes from specific books, but they rise up in my writing anyway. I told you about how it was only months after completing The True Queen that I realised the climax has several similarities with that of The Story of the Amulet by E. Nesbit.

I also lift more consciously from real life, mostly because my parents regularly come up with better lines than I could invent.

Peter: When writing something so carefully plotted, do you ever find it a challenge to keep the dialogue spontaneous and fresh? Or is the point of planning to help you improvise when writing?

Zen: Plotting is the hard part for me. The dialogue is relatively easy—the fun bit. If the dialogue is hard, and sometimes it’s hard, that’s usually a sign that something’s gone wrong with the plot. But it’s a sort of feedback loop—I usually have a plan for what’s going to happen, but once I start writing the writing will often determine its own direction, which doesn’t always match up with the plan.

Peter: How concerned are you to be accurate in your depiction of Fairy and magical elements? Do you fact-check them, and if so how?

Zen: I made up the European magic, but I researched the Malay magic. I felt I had enough familiarity with Western fairytales and ideas about magic from a lifetime of reading English-language fantasy to riff on those. But the Malay magic is almost as new and foreign to me as it will be to many readers.

Peter: Prunella and Zacharias are still at the centre of this book, even though it’s not about them. Why add new protagonists in this book, rather than have new adventures of the same characters we already know and love?

Zen: I tried writing a book with Prunella and Zacharias as the protagonists during the three interminable years when I was working on this book. But it was hard making it fresh. Sorcerer to the Crown was really inspired by Regency romances and it’s hard to stretch a romance out over more than one book without annoying readers. If you’ve seen your faves get together in book one, you’re not going to want to see them fighting in book two. The True Queen has ended up being more like a new installment in a romance series, with a new main couple and background characters from the first book coming to the fore.

Peter: Tuan Farquhar appears at the start of the book as a bad guy, but I was surprised that he doesn’t emerge as a main antagonist. Did you always know that he was a secondary character?

Zen: Tuan Farquhar is William Farquhar, who was Resident of Malacca at the time the book takes place (around 1810-ish). The fact he’s in there is just worldbuilding; he’s context. Most of the SFF about Empire is about fighting Empire—I think because most SFF is and was produced by white Westerners who are working through their undigested feelings about benefiting from imperial domination by writing stories where they imagine themselves into the position of the oppressed. But that’s a salty take for another day!

What I wanted to do with this book was to write about living with and under Empire. Farquhar represents this threat hovering over Janda Baik, the dilemma of what a small polity is to do with the incoming wave of Western imperialism. But the book isn’t primarily about that direct conflict. I wanted it to be about what ordinary people do against that backdrop.

Peter: There are several names in the book that sound slightly foreign in English: Duke of the Navel of the Seas, Georgiana Without Ruth, Not Henrietta. Are these translations, or otherwise non-English in origin?

Zen: This is an astute observation and very typical of your close attention to language! “Navel of the Seas” is a translation of ‘”Pusat Tasik,” which in Malay pre-Islamic belief is the central whirlpool in the sea where various great divinities are said to live. He’s a Duke because Regency novels always have Dukes.

Georgiana Without Ruth and Not Henrietta actually sound very English to me—alien, but in an English way. They discharge a different function, the same function as words like thaumaturgy. They’re meant to signal to the reader that we’re in a different version of history, an alternate universe where you can chat with dragons and have diplomatic crises with Fairyland.

Peter: The word naga means dragon in this book, which I understand is specifically Malay (the basic meaning in Sanskrit is snake, especially cobra). How conscious were you of creating a world in which Malay mythology is at the fore?

Zen: Very much so. I told Zedeck Siew, who is a fellow Malaysian writer of the weird, that this is my Skeat book. (Walter William Skeat’s ethnographic treatise on Malay folklore, Malay Magic, is becoming something of a bible for Malaysian Anglophone speculative fiction writers. Two out of the three Malaysian stories in the Abaddon Books Not So Stories anthology draw on it, and it’s where I got ‘Pusat Tasik’.)

You could get into the weeds talking about how weird it is that Malaysian writers are drawing on the work of a British colonial administrator to write Malaysian fiction. But that’s what it’s like being from a former colony.

Peter: One of the funniest moments is the revelation that comes with the exclamation “Florian!” How often do you know in advance that a plot development will make a good joke?

Zen: You know, I didn’t realize that joke counted as a plot development until you said so! So I guess the answer is not … often.

Did you just choose the name Florian because it’s funny?

Zen: Yes.

Peter: Both Sorcerer and True Queen have a political and social consciousness, but my sense is that Sorcerer addresses the politics of empire more than True Queen does, and that True Queen has more about social justice and equality (race, faith, sexuality, gender). Do you agree? How far does it shift the balance of the novel’s political imagination that the True Queen has so much about the politics of the Fairy kingdom?

Zen: I talked a bit about this already in my answer about Farquhar, but I guess what I’d say is in both books the protagonists’ world is shaped by the politics of empire. But the consequences of that, and how the protagonists understand their world and themselves, are different.

In Sorcerer to the Crown Zacharias and Prunella are people of colour in a white man’s world and that meant the confrontation with whiteness was clearer, more direct. In True Queen Muna starts off as Malay in Malaya, and then she makes this voyage in to the metropolis. (Is it hubris to say True Queen is my Season of Migration to the North? Pity I never finished Season of Migration to the North … )

It was really important to me to portray in Muna someone whose internal axis isn’t aligned by reference to Europe or the West. She’s not in reaction to or in opposition of whiteness; she doesn’t confront it in the same way that Zacharias and Prunella did because it’s just not as much of an issue for her. Her centre is somewhere outside of all of that. That’s why, in absence of her own memories, Mak Genggang is who she refers to as her guide on magic, behaviour, understanding of the world.

Having Fairy politics play a big part in the action of the novel was meant to help with that. It provides another pole of power so it’s not just British vs. Malayan, white vs native, big vs. small, Goliath vs David.

The True Queen is out now. Let us know what other authors you’d love to see participate in this feature, and we’ll try to make it happen!

The post In Which Author Zen Cho Is Interviewed by Her Husband About The True Queen appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

Stopping the Cycle: Kameron Hurley on the Narrative Intricacies and Fiery Politics of The Light Brigade

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Delivering the relentless, brutal action fans of Kameron Hurley have come to expect, The Light Brigade is also a mystery, an exploration of the nature of time, and a full-throated battle cry to take back the world from corruption before it’s too late. A virtuosic structure—the protagonist experiences events, including space battles, out of order—culminates in a breathtaking conclusion.

I talked to Kameron about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into mapping out a complex time travel narrative, developing character relationships in an out-of-sequence structure, and more.

It seems to me that a book as big and complex as The Light Brigade would take time to take shape. How would you describe the process?
The first forty thousand words or so went relatively easily, as I’ve spent nearly twenty years studying the history of wars, resistance, and revolution. I knew the characters and the voice fairly well going into it. But once I hit the time travel stuff, I needed math. And a real structure! My agent, Hannah Bowman, came to the rescue as always, and connected me with Dr. Joshua Bowman, a mathematician who created all of the complicated diagrams that I needed to run characters through to ensure the time travel was internally consistent within the novel (I’m told this diagram was “a directed Hamiltonian path through a bipartite graph”).

There were several plot points I had to scrap or rewrite completely because they just didn’t map. That was a fun exercise for me, because I’m very much used to just making shit up. We went beat by beat through every time jump in the story, chronologically as the war happened and then again with how Dietz experiences it. It’s a mind fuck of a novel, really, and that’s because it turns out time is a mind fuck, too.

There are also concepts and thinking around how time is perceived and how we shape reality that made their way into the novel. Carlo Rovelli’s book The Order of Time was really influential, as was his book Reality is Not What is Seems.

This book feels timely. It made me think about literature and responsibility—that in historic times, an author might feel a responsibility to address the times. And few mediums are more effective at doing so than science fiction.
Every piece of art is representative of its time. We can’t divorce ourselves from the reality of the world we are living in. Certainly I channeled a lot of frustration, anger, and hope into this novel. Interestingly, though, it’s also very much a timeless novel (ha!). The cycle of war and propaganda continues on and on, decade after decade. It’s eerie how the justifications for wars remain the same.

There is a quote from Hermann Goering that I paraphrase in The Light Brigade, about how people can always be convinced to do the bidding of the rulers. “Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

We can be manipulated using the same tactics decade after decade, century after century. Equipping a population you want to exploit with the critical faculties to understand when they are being manipulated is antithetical to the desires of capitalism, oligarchy, and tyranny.

But just saying that, and showing that, isn’t very heartening. It begs the question: when and how do we stop the cycle? And that’s key, for me. I spent a lot of time writing very grim dystopias where protagonists worked to maintain the status quo because what was on the horizon was worse. This novel was certainly a breaking point for me. I’m no longer asking, “How do we work within the system to effect change?” Instead, I’m like, “Burn it all down.”

The Light Brigade combines its original concept with an homage to Golden Age science fiction. I felt as if this book was in dialogue with military science fiction of the past.
Oh, certainly. I’ve always loved military science fiction, both written and film. Books like Armored and The Forever War had a big impact on me, as did films like Starship Troopers, Soldier, Aliens, and Predator. I also have a love of low budget military science fiction films, and I’ve been watching those since I was too young to even understand what was happening. Effective low budget films rely far more on great writing, great stories, than effects or even actors. If you have a compelling story to tell, the rest is just – literally – set dressing.

There are a good many references and homages to books, films, and other writers in this book. It sort of happened naturally; and I figured if I was going to put references and homages into any book, this was definitely the one to do it.

At its heart, it seems like a story of what it means to be a hero when the destructive forces are so big, and individuals are nothing in comparison—literally cannon fodder. But of course they aren’t nothing, or nothing would be worth fighting for. Can you talk about how you explored the concept of the individual hero in this book?
We all know how different our lives would be if we made just one small choice differently. But when we talk about big historical events, we often say that a small choice, a little resistance, won’t change anything. The reality is that the only thing that’s every change the world (for good or ill) is a small, passionate group dedicated to making change. Governments like to tell us that we don’t have power, but individuals are crucial to starting movements, and movements do have power. Power comes from people. All of a government’s power also comes from people. That’s why they’re so terrified of us.

Dietz is a soldier much like those I’ve grown up knowing. After high school, a group of folks I was friends with all ran off to join the Marines. Some embraced the rhetoric of war and the corps wholeheartedly. Others rejected it and protected themselves from it as much as possible. Still others went on journeys a little more like Dietz’s: they believed they were fighting on the side of good, of rightness; they swallowed the rhetoric until they realized they were in service not to some higher purpose or noble cause, but were instead foot soldiers for an empire.

We are, each of us and collectively, driven by our choices. Choosing to follow orders. Choosing to disregard them. Choosing to shoot. Choosing not to. These are extraordinary decisions, especially when the stakes are literally life and death.

Your epic fantasy series the Worldbreaker Saga also deals with multiple realities, albeit in a different way. Is there something about the concept of multiple realities that draws you to keep exploring it from different angles? (And in different genres!)
Isn’t the joke that every science fiction or fantasy show has the “alternate timeline” episode? As noted, many of us are interested in the idea of how our lives would have been different if just one small thing changed. This is because so many of the big decisions and moments in our lives can be attributed to random chance. We all want to believe there is a bigger narrative, and in fact our brains are wired to try and create narrative out of random noise, but when you step back – there’s far more luck and chance than we’re comfortable acknowledging.

I’m fascinated with how our brains create stories from the noise. How we develop internal narratives that literally form our consciousness. When you attack someone’s story of themselves, you’re attacking the way they have built reality. Start to question one, and it all comes tumbling down. Build a different story, build a different reality.

One thing I marveled at in particular is how you developed relationships between Dietz and the other characters, despite Dietz experiencing events out of order. How did you approach the challenge?

Working out how people would respond to Dietz throughout the book was one of the bigger challenges. Establishing that they were constantly monitored and didn’t get time to talk about taboo subjects helped. One of the things you hear from soldiers who serve multiple tours is that they aren’t necessarily there because they believe in the cause, or are super passionate about it. They return because they want to fight with and protect the people they are fighting next to. Dietz needed that comradery, especially as Dietz becomes disillusioned with the war effort. Why keep going? Well, you know, Star Wars had it right: To protect what you love, not to destroy what you hate.

I worked with a complicated spreadsheet that kept track of events and how they happened in both chronological order and in the order Dietz experiences them so that I could ensure their conversations reflected “time” as each person experienced it. Also, it required a lot of editing and multiple passes.  I think we had this copyedited four or five times, my agent went over it at least a dozen times, my editor at least three times, and I read it from start to finish four or five times. It’s a complicated book.

What’s next for you?

I have a short story collection, Meet Me in the Future, out in July. I’m also finishing up the final book of my Worldbreaker Saga, The Broken Heavens, which should be out at the end of this year. Yes, it’s a busy book year for me! After that, I will be writing and pitching some new projects, as I’ll be out of contract. Lots of exciting new work ahead, I expect, including a genderbent Die Hard in space novel and a Weird 80’s murder mystery.

The Light Brigade is available now.

The post Stopping the Cycle: Kameron Hurley on the Narrative Intricacies and Fiery Politics of The Light Brigade appeared first on The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog.

5 Questions with Star Wars Resistance’s Scott Lawrence

In 5 Questions, talks to guests of The Star Wars Show for some additional, fun intel.

As Jarek Yeager, the rebel veteran and mentor to young Resistance spy Kaz on Star Wars Resistance, Scott Lawrence has brought to life a major new hero in a galaxy far, far away, with a performance conveying wisdom, experience, and world-wariness. In advance of the season finale of Star Wars Resistance this Sunday, March 17, at 10 p.m. on Disney Channel, you can see Lawrence discuss the role, voicing Darth Vader in video games, and more on this week’s episode of The Star Wars Show, below. In addition, caught up with the actor to answer five questions on some very important (Star Wars-related) issues…

When and where did you first see Star Wars?

I first saw Star Wars when it first came out. I guess I was in high school at the time, and I was a huge science fiction fan, and everyone had to go see it, of course. It was just like, Well, there’s this thing happening and you’ve got to go check it out. It was not hard to fall in love with that world.

If you could hang out with anyone in Star Wars, who would it be?

I kinda like Yoda. Yeah, me and the little green guy would definitely be hanging out. Put him on my back and jump in the swamp. I always wanted to be right in there with him on my back and doing flips in the swamp and all that stuff. Would be really funny.

Han and Luke receive their medals in Star Wars: A New Hope.

Would you join the Rebellion or the Empire?

Oh, depending on which movie I was in that had the better part… [Laughs] I think I’d have to be part of the Rebellion, yeah. But I’ve played both sides of the fence, so…

What is your desert island Star Wars movie?

I think it would have to be The Empire Strikes Back. That was Yoda intensive and I really liked Luke Skywalker, too. I think he was the guy that we could relate to, and could be like, that’s my guy – a young guy trying to find his way through the universe and had some powers he didn’t know how to use yet. That’s cool stuff.

Say something nice about Darth Vader.

He just wants to be loved, is that so wrong? Darth Vader is just a guy. He had problems. A little bronchial situation, too. Get that man an inhaler and a hug.

Watch the season finale of Star Wars Resistance on Sunday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel! All Star Wars, all the time.

5 Questions with Star Wars Resistance’s Scott Lawrence