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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith

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Matthew Stover
Author, "Revenge of the Sith"
Monday, May 16, 2005; 12:00 PM

When George Lucas was searching for an author to handle the novelization of "Revenge of the Sith," he looked no further than Matthew Stover. Stover, an established writer who had previously penned two Star Wars Expanded Universe (EU) novels, worked from Lucas' script to craft a complete novel, exposing the deep psychological motivations of the characters in one of the darkest episodes of the Star Wars saga.

Stover in his own words: "I didn't set out to write a novelization so much as I tried to back-create, from Mr. Lucas's story and script, a novel as I think it might have been if he had been making the film based on it, rather than the other way around. I wanted it to be not just a good novelization, but a good novel."

Stover was online Monday, May 16, at Noon ET to discuss "Revenge of the Sith" -- both the movie and the challenges faced in turning George Lucas' screenplay into a book.

Submit your questions and comments before or during today's discussion.

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Germantown, Md.: What exactly do the Sith want revenge for?

Matthew Stover: That's something that is not directly addressed in the film, something that's really only available in the Expanded Universe, the vast galaxy's worth of novels, comic books and video games, roll-playing games ... everything that is not part of the film saga.

It would involve the suppression of the Sith order by the Jedi during the Sith wars. You can find references to these mostly in the comics and in the Knights of the Old Republic video games and references in a variety of the novels.

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Salem, Oregon: Hello

Obviously I have not seen the movie yet, but I have read your book, which you wrote well. One bit that thwows me is how Princess Leia can remember her mom in such a short time?

Matthew Stover: Mr. Lucas and I did not discuss that point directly. There are two possible explanations. One is that the mother Leia is remembering is actually the Queen of Alderaan and the other is that the memory she has is a force echo not unlike the impressions that some force users such as Quinlan Vos can get from reading certain objects.

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Washington, D.C.: Which character's head was it the most difficult for you to get into for this book and why?

Matthew Stover: It was Count Dooku because of his combination of exceptional intelligence and extraordinary naivete.

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Rockville, Md.: Was it intimidating writing Episode. III? What was your biggest challenge?

Matthew Stover: It was terrifying. The biggest challenge was writing a novel that would do justice not only to what I as a 43-year-old grown man who has lived with Star Wars for 28 years thinks the saga deserves but also a novel that would still capture some of the thrill that that 15-year-old kid I was when I saw Episode Four would have wanted the book to have.

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Arlington, Va.: You've mentioned before that you met with George Lucas to discuss the book, and that he did a line edit. Your novel is full of very strong characterizations. Did Mr. Lucas's input affect any of the characterizations?

Matthew Stover: His input did more than affect the characterizations. His input was the foundation of the characterizations. All I was trying to do was find literary language that would bring his characterizations to life in a book.

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Logan Circle, Washington, D.C.: I loved the book. What did you think of the novelizations of the first two movies? Did you try to do something different with your book?

Matthew Stover: I thought the novelizations for the first two movies were appropriate for what those movies were. They fit the movies. I didn't consciously set out to do something different. All I was trying to do was write the best book I could write that would really bring to life what I consider to be the most important chapter of the Star Wars saga.

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Vienna, Va.: Were you able to see any of the film production before penning the novel or did you have to go strictly from the script?

Matthew Stover: I worked from the script plus concept art and some screen shots. I also had access to the Lucasfilm online image database and of course, there was my interview with Mr. Lucas. Beyond that, I was working entirely from my knowledge of Star Wars and my experience in the expanded universe and my vast library of Star Wars reference materials.

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Fairfax, Va.: I've always wondered if a Jedi could deflect a bullet. They have an easy time seeing red blaster shots. A bullet has no color or way of tracking it.

Matthew Stover: Jedi do not deflect blaster shots consciously. It has nothing to do with seeing them. On the other hand, they would not deflect a bullet. The bullet would simply vaporize in their light sabre's blade. But yes, the Force would be able to guide their blade into the path of a bullet in the exact same fashion.

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Memphis, Ten.: Is there even a remote chance that there will be another Star Wars episode?

Matthew Stover: As a film, I don't believe so. Star Wars as a filmed saga is the story of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, which is not to say that there will be no more Star Wars. There are a couple of television series in the works -- one animated and one live action, as I understand it. But as far as the films go, unless Mr. Lucas changes his mind at some point in the future, Revenge of the Sith will be the last.

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Indianapolis, Ind.: Which Character do you identify most with and why?

Matthew Stover: I guess that would probably be Anakin because there is nothing I wouldn't do to save the people I love.

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Gary, Ind.: Many Star Wars fans were disappointed by "The Phantom Menace." In your view, was it a mistake to take such a humorous tone with that movie? Would you have included Jar-Jar, if it were up to you?

Matthew Stover: If you had asked me that question two years ago I would have said no. However, now knowing what I know about how the whole story plays out I have to say that I wouldn't change anything.

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Arlington, Va.: Don't we all basically know what's coming in this movie? Will people still find surprises when they actually see it?

Matthew Stover: There are some surprises in the film. But a film like this is not about surprises. This is a tragedy. Tragedy is about the pity and dread watching the destruction of those we have come to admire or even love. If you want to know more, you can find it in Aristotle's Poetics.

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Boston, Mass.: There are novels that take place ahead of the six movies with tidbits that explain things in the past. How did you handle details that weren't in the movies at all, but are part of the extended storyline?

Matthew Stover: Some of those details are and some of them aren't. I went ahead and included everything I thought was relevant and just trusted to Mr. Lucas to cut out everything that he didn't want in the story and that's exactly what he did.

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Albany, New York: In "The Empire Strikes Back," Luke Skywalker leaves Daogbah before he finishes his Jedi training with Yoda. Yet, at the beginning of the "Return of the Jedi," he is a full-fledged Jedi Master. How did that happen? Are we supposed to assume that Luke DID go back to finish his training?

Matthew Stover: My specialty is what happens before Episode Four. For events that occur between Episodes Five and Six, you'll have to ask Mr. Lucas.

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Washington, D.C.: What was out of balance (and why) that Qui Gon thought would be restored if Anakin became a Jedi?

Matthew Stover: I can't answer that. This is a question that is central to the conflict of Revenge of the Sith and in fact is played out in the original trilogy.

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Herndon, Va.: Episode I mentions that there are always two Sith, the mentor and the apprentice. Was this something Episode III addresses and/or something you explored in writing the novel?

Matthew Stover: Not directly. There are a number of references to what is known as the "Sith Rule of Two" in the Expanded Universe.

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Southbridge, Va.: Is there much more detail to be found in the novel than in the Movie?

Matthew Stover: Yes. As Obi-Wan would say, "From a certain point of view." The additional detail in the novel lies in what's going on inside the characters' heads: their thoughts, feelings, motivations, and also in some supplementary scenes that take place "off-camera" so to speak.

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Lexington, Ky.: I am particularly interested in the redemption of Darth Vader in Episode VI. He appears at the end of the movie as a spectral figure (with Yoda and Obi-Wan). How could he redeem himself by only the action of killing the emperator?

Matthew Stover: Again, this is a question that is at least touched upon in Episode Three and I'm not going to give anything away before the release of the film. You're just going to have to watch the movie.

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Ballston, Va.: What is your background in martial arts and how does it inform or affect your writing?

Matthew Stover: I've been a student of martial arts for about 26 years. In that time I have studied more than a dozen different fighting styles and I suppose it's given me a broader view of the realities of combat: physical, mental and emotional. Also, it's served as my introduction to Asian philosophies and meditative techniques which, I think, have added to my understanding to Jedi and the Force.

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Arlington, Va.: Greetings Mr. Stover! Loved the book!

Kind of an out there question, but do you think a Jedi could beat up Superman?

Matthew Stover: No. Nope. Jedi are in their own way supermen but somebody who can fly faster than light and move whole planets is just out of their league.

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Arlington, Va.: As I recall, after the success of the original movie, Lucas was talking about three trilogies. What happened to the last one? Have the Expanded Universe books etc. taken over where the third trilogy would have continued the story?

Matthew Stover: No. What happened was that he decided that instead of continuing the adventures of Luke Skywalker he decided that the real story is the fall and redemption of his father Anakin Skywalker and thus, the saga ends with Return of the Jedi.

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Washington, D.C.: Is the rebellion lead by Dooku in Episode III the same as the one that Luke participates in in Episodes IV-VI? How did you handle the transition from viewing the rebellion as the "bad guys" in the first several Episodes to the "good guys" in the last 3?

Matthew Stover: They're not even related. As you will see in Episode III, the Confederacy of Independent Systems is a completely separate entity from the Rebel Alliance.

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Washington, D.C.: The movie trailer makes it look like there are lots of Wookies in Episode III. This would be really cool; is it true?

Matthew Stover: There is a sequence on the Wookie home planet in Episode III. That's all I will say.

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Virginia: Which is harder, writing a book or getting it published?

Matthew Stover: Writing a book. Writing is a long, hard, slow process. Writing well is even harder. There are lots of agents and editors out there who are very, very hungry for good books. So write a good book and getting it published is not as hard as you might think.

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Rockville, Md.: There are many things in the book that suggest Anakin is a more powerful Jedi than Obi Won yet Obi Won gets the best of him at the end of the book. Did Anakin feel conflicted about fighting his mentor? Was he distracted by his wife ... or how do you explain his loss?

Matthew Stover: I don't explain his loss. I'm just a reporter. If you feel the need to explain you can chalk it up to the will of the Force.

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Burke, Va.: Does Episode III touch on the question of Anakin's father? I've heard rumors that the answer is not that given in Episode I.

Matthew Stover: I spoke with Mr. Lucas about that subject during our meeting and it was one of the things that he has decided not to reveal -- at least not yet.

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San Francisco, Calif.: In "The Empire Strikes Back," Han Solo responds to a guard who tells him it's too dangerous to go out at night by saying "I'll see you in hell."

That line seems very out of context in the Star Wars saga, because it implies that there is a religious system akin to Christianity.

To me, that's a huge gaffe in the movie. Is this a subject that is explored at length in the books? Also, do Jedi "worship" the force in a sense that could be considered religious?

Matthew Stover: Jedi do not worship the Force. Han is Corellian. Where he's from they have a complicated system of legends that include a number of different hells.

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Boulder, Colo.: If Luke and Yoda fought who would win?

Matthew Stover: I don't know. Frankly, I can't imagine them fighting.

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Southbridge, Va.: How much leeway are you allowed in crafting the characters inner thoughts that Movies are incapable of showing us?

Matthew Stover: I asked Mr. Lucas that at our meeting. He told me, "Do what ever you want, just make it good." Then when I sent in the finished book he went through and changed everything he didn't like.

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Dover, Del.: Ok ... the age-old question: Star Wars encounters Star Trek ... who wins?

Personally, I think the Federation would be at a significant disadvantage. While it's technology may be better, it would likely have no answer for the Force. A single Jedi or Sith would wreak havoc on the Enterprise.

The Federation would also be hampered by the Prime Directive and by its inclination to analyze and negotiate. The Star Wars universe, it seems to me, is much more ruthless.

Any thoughts? And is it possible in the future that we might see some kind of a cross-over novel? I think that would be great fun!

Matthew Stover: Don't expect to see any kind of crossover novel. All I can say is those of us on the Star Wars side refer to the Other guys as the sissy franchise with all their touchy-feelie Prime Directive kind of stuff.

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Maryland: Re: news stories this morning that the current film presents an allegory of Bush's politics via the Emperor, let's point out that this novel was written "a long time ago."

Matthew Stover: I've gotten this question regularly. It started coming up as soon as Jim Luceno's Labyrinth of Evil was published. All I can say is that Star Wars is a story of myth. Myth is a structure for approaching universal truths and if the mythic structure of Palpatine's tyranny reminds some people of our government, that's not necessarily because George Lucas intended a criticism of our government.

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San Juan, P.R.: At the end of your book Yoda blames himself for what happened. He says that he was blind and that Quin Jon was right. What was Quin Jon right about, that Yoda couldn't see?

Matthew Stover: The need to be more sensitive to the Living Force.

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College Park, Md.: Who was Darth Plagious's Master?

Matthew Stover: I don't know the answer. Mr. Lucas didn't choose to share that with me.

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Washington, D.C.: I loved all of your Star Wars novels, especially Traitor. Traitor was by far my favorite novel in the New Jedi Order. I read Heroes Die and Blade of Tyshalle afterwards and I am hooked. When will you be coming out with the third Caine novel (or anything purely yours)? I know you have the book tour keeping you busy as of late, but will you be concentrating on another Star Wars novel or will you being going back to your own stories?

Thanks!

Matthew Stover: I am wrapping up my Star Wars tour with a visit to Disneyworld this weekend and after that I will be right back hard at work on Caine Black Knife which I am about half done with and I'm hoping will be coming out early next year.

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Matthew Stover: Thanks to everyone for coming, for hanging out asking questions, being patient enough to read my answers and just like everyone else here today, I just can't wait for 12:01 Thursday morning. Bye, bye and thanks.

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