What The Heck Was The Star Wars Adventure Journal?


Where You Can Find Me!

“…and why should I care?”, you’re probably asking.

[In which the author attempts to explain the mysteries of writing for the Star Wars universe and the general headaches of working as a contractor building a pool for a house that the new owners didn’t want but decided to use sometimes.]

A long time ago in a house far, far away (the 1990s, just so you know), I was a struggling author with few publishing credits to my name. My fate at the time represented the Catch-22 of life as an author. To be considered for publication, you have to be already published. That’s the way it was. Agents wouldn’t read your queries. Publishers would laugh because they wouldn’t consider you as a real author unless you had some credentials.

I stewed like this for some time, sending out short stories to sci-fi magazines and novel submissions to the major publishers with hopeful expectation, only to collect a pile of rejection letters. (This was all pre-Internet, so the entire industry relied upon paper and envelopes and stamps.)

A friend of mine returned from a local convention with a broadside offering authors (of all stripes) a chance to write for a company called West End Games which was putting out something called The Star Wars Adventure Journal, a quarterly magazine offered as a companion to its new release of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game. The Journal would offer little games, new characters, equipment and location stats for enthusiastic use in the RPG. It would also offer short fiction. In other words, it was a chance to write for Star Wars–and have your work considered canon.

So what is canon? (It’s not a gun, but it has been used as a weapon.)

Canon is the Holy Grail of writing for someone else’s property. Say you have an idea for Buffy The Vampire Slayer? It belongs to Joss Whedon, so you skillfully locate his postal address, slip your manuscript (with brass brads!) down the mail slot and eagerly await his reply. Mr. Whedon’s lawyer promptly writes back and tells you to go jump in the lake. Buffy is a product that belongs only to Mr. Whedon, only he can create licensed material or make deals to produce more material. Think the Buffy comics and you understand what I mean.

West End Games held the license for producing the Star Wars Roleplaying Game and was offering chances for writers (some with limp credentials like myself) the chance to write more material for the universe. This chance was extremely vetted–the editors at West End Games had to pass each writer’s work on to Lucasfilm for a blessing. Once blessed, the work was considered canon. What you had written was part of the Star Wars universe, living side-by-side with the movies, the books, the video games and other stuff.

I wrote like a demon. This was a universe I adored when I was a teenager and in the Nineties, Star Wars had lost most of its luster. The universe was lying there in a used speeder shop waiting for someone to tune it up to eleven again. Timothy Zahn released a trilogy of new books with new adventures for the Skywalkers and the Solos. The New Republic era was created. West End Games had a new edition of its roleplaying game tied to this new era and things started cooking. The Adventure Journal came out along with new books, new comics and new releases of toys.

It lasted only for a few years. West End Games developed financial problems. It bought licenses for other properties (some of them without much lucrative basis for an RPG) and overextended itself. Some people got paid very slowly and others not at all. The RPG license was passed to Wizards of the Coast (which was consumed by Hasbro. Pen and paper RPGs were slowly being edged out by video games. The RPG languished and so did Star Wars until the prequel movies were released.

There was a lot of material to keep track of. Too much canon, in fact.

The point of this is to explain why some material written for Star Wars (the so-called “Extended Universe”) was wiped out and tossed in a Sarlaac pit. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm and Star Wars, it wanted to make new movies, new characters (which in turn are used to decorate toy boxes) and erase a lot of confusion regarding the period between the end of Return of the Jedi and their new stuff. In other words, the EU was sent to the boneyard. That meant my work, twenty or so years ago, was voided and is no longer considered canon. (On Wookiepedia and starwars.com, much of this material has been reorganized under the title Legends, to avoid confusion.)

Which is too bad. While it was confusing to some, there were tons of material produced by great writers and artists in the fifteen editions of the Star Wars Adventure Journal (um, my own stuff included). Some of this material did slip in from books like the Star Wars Sourcebooks created by West End. What’s the interior layout of the Millennium Falcon and where are its secret cargo compartments? How does a blaster pistol or a lightsaber work? Where’s Yavin Four in relation to the other worlds in the galaxy? What are the known variants of the TIE Fighter? This is essential legwork–a story scaffolding–that’s already been established and it occasionally pops up, again and again, in The Force Awakens, Clone Wars, Rebels and Rogue One.

Check out that portable missile launcher from Rogue One!

Missile Launcher!

With this one…

Finbat Anti-walker missile and launcher, from the Star Wars Adventure Journal, “Blasters-for-Hire”, written and drawn by yours truly

So twenty plus years later, I decided to dig in that past and write a new piece of fiction to celebrate my old work with the Star Wars Adventure Journal. It’s not canon, its not authorized, its simply a work of love.

Red Moon Rising

Red Moon Rising covers some of the heroes, adversaries, characters and worlds I previously wrote about and updates them with events of The Force Awakens. Consider it a chance to return to the world of Star Wars while endlessly waiting for The Last Jedi.