When it comes to increasing our knowledge of topics in the Star Wars universe in entertaining ways, Daniel Wallace is a master. His works include several of the most well-regarded reference books, including The Essential Atlas, The New Essential Guide to Characters, and The New Essential Chronology. His articles and stories have appeared in the full gamut of magazines, from the Adventure Journal to Star Wars Gamer and the Star Wars Insider.
Last year, we were blown away by The Jedi Path, which he wrote as an in-universe guidebook for Jedi students. With the The Jedi Path being re-released this September, and his new work, Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side coming out in February 2012 in a deluxe vault edition, Daniel took the time to answer some questions for Club Jade about the upcoming Book of Sith, which was first announced at Comic-Con this year and had major details released today, and the new version of The Jedi Path.
James: The Jedi Path just recently was re-published in a trade version, without the awesome vault or extra items – how else is it different from the Vault edition?
Daniel Wallace: The best thing about the trade edition vs. the vault edition is the cheaper price. Amazon currently has it for $12 U.S. The second-best thing is that the trade edition is a more accessible reading experience. As cool as the vault edition is, people tend to treat it more like a collectible and don’t want to keep taking the book out of the vault for fear that one of the souvenirs might fall out from between the pages and roll under a couch. The trade edition is designed so that it can be stuffed into a backpack.
Because it’s a standalone, the trade edition differs from the vault edition in a few other ways. The trade edition has a Star Wars logo on the front cover and has a different cover stock. For reproduction reasons we couldn’t do the “ripped out pages” trick, so instead the Prophecy of the Chosen One has been redacted CIA-style with a black marker. And any comments that referred to the vault edition’s souvenirs like “I’m storing my medallion between these pages” has been edited out for clarity.
James: About those redactions, you can almost make out words and sentences in the Prophecy pages. One of the words on the first page of the prophecy looks suspiciously like “Mortis” while other words that are partially visible include “ocean”, “fulcrum”, and “elementals” – Is deciphering these pages a challenge to the readers?
Daniel: Good eye! This was actually the case with the vault edition too, where you could make out fragmentary words on the scraps of paper that were left behind on the torn-out pages. Yes, Mortis appears to be one of the words visible in both. No, it’s not a coincidence. But there’s definitely not enough info provided for readers to fully decipher the pages.
James: While in his comments, Luke Skywalker believes that Darth Sidious had redacted the prophecy, you mentioned on the Chronicle Books Blog that Yoda didn’t want you to include these pages – who is more afraid of having the Prophecy of the Chosen One published?
Daniel: Our original thought was that Darth Sidious removed the pages, hence Luke’s note. But there’s room for speculation. I’ve always thought that the Council would consider that info very sensitive where Anakin was concerned.
James: You mentioned at Comic-Con that Book of Sith won’t be just a Sith version of The Jedi Path – what makes Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side different?
Daniel: We’re still keeping most of the details of the Book of Sith under wraps [Editor's note: Most of the details have now been unveiled!], but from the start we knew we weren’t going to make it a Sith textbook in the way that The Jedi Path is a Jedi textbook. The Sith have their traditions, but they’re so egocentric and they guard their power so zealously that it seemed wrong for them to dispense their secrets classroom-style. Therefore, the Book of Sith isn’t a single text. It’s an amalgam of several texts from different authors during many eras of Star Wars history. In some cases the authors weren’t writing for any audience besides themselves. How these different texts came to be bound in the Book of Sith is part of the backstory.
James: With this being a sort of Sith anthology, there’s a lot of opportunity to pull from many Sith traditions, from lots of different sources. With the current focus on Sith-centric stories (Revan, Darth Bane, Darth Plagueis, the Sith infighting in Knight Errant, the Lost Tribe of the Sith), what’s the allure of the Sith and their growing evolution?
Daniel: I’m really glad the Sith have emerged as the opposing force to the Jedi. Longtime Star Wars fans might remember when that wasn’t the case, and even when nobody knew what the word meant in the first place. Harry Potter is better with Voldemort, Batman is better with the Joker, and the Jedi have been greatly improved by fleshing out the Sith — thereby establishing not only what each side stands for, but what they don’t.
James: Any hints as to what will accompany Book of Sith?
Daniel: The version available in February 2012 will be the Book of Sith vault edition. Whether we’ll eventually have a trade edition is still to be determined, but the vault will contain all the awesomeness of The Jedi Path vault and more. I’m not permitted to talk about the removable souvenirs or the case just yet, but the same team that designed The Jedi Path is working on this one, and everybody is determined to make this more awesome in every way. Even the opening and closing process for the Sith vault sounds ridiculously cool.
James: And a question originally submitted by one of our Twitter followers: How was the process of writing the two books similar and different?
Daniel: It was similar writing The Jedi Path and the Book of Sith because I really tried to put myself on each team as I went along. It’s sort of a debate-club point of view, but I found I couldn’t write about either philosophy without genuinely understanding it from the inside. After that the writing process became, “Well duh, of course the weak should be sacrificed in dark-side magic rituals.” The Sith are evil but they all have a very tangible end goal in mind. Evil acts are the most direct way for them to get there. In essence, they’re saying, why make things more complicated than they need to be?
James: One thing that strikes me as different about the Sith is that they are changing their tactics and structure over time, while the Jedi tended to be a bit more static in their code and their role in the galaxy. How do we see the changing Sith doctrines and the constant search to rediscover lost secrets played out in the commentaries?
Daniel: The Sith have changed a lot in the Expanded Universe, from an Egyptian-influenced death cult to a vast dark side army to the secretive Master-apprentice pairings of the Rule of Two. Therefore we dealt with all of these eras in the Book of Sith. Each Sith era had certain things that they did right and certain things that were better off dropped, and one of my central premises was that Darth Sidious was the beneficiary of all this accumulated knowledge, which allowed him to succeed and dominate the galaxy under Sith rule far beyond the wildest dreams of those who came before him.
James: Thank you so much for taking time for this interview, Daniel. We are looking forward to Book of Sith in its ridiculously cool vault edition next February!
Keep up to date with Daniel Wallace via his blog at geekosity.blogspot.com. Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side will be available from Amazon and is published by beckermayer! The trade version of The Jedi Path is published by Chronicle Books.