The Unity Wars got its start in June 2015, as “Alternate Star Wars Prequels.” (This was about six months before The Force Awakens was released, so the dumpster fire that is the Disney/Lucasfilm sequel trilogy had yet to begin.) I had been dissatisfied with the prequels (and the direction they led Star Wars as a whole in) for quite a long time, as much as I hadn’t wanted to be, and had a weird little writing prompt pop into my head one day. “How would I do it differently, more in keeping with what was hinted at in both the original movies and novelizations, as well as some of the West End Games material and the Timothy Zahn Heir to the Empire trilogy?”
I scribbled some notes, but later abandoned it, because I had no desire to get sued into oblivion by the juggernaut that is The Mouse. I always kind of wanted to finish it, but I had other projects.
It was Galaxy’s Edge that showed the way, and I’ve since made The Unity Wars it’s own thing, even though it still follows many of the elements I wanted to explore with the alternate Clone Wars. Clone tech is supposed to be as scary and dangerous as Zahn posited in the Thrawn trilogy, and the clones are supposed to be borderline psychotic enemies of the good guys (though I scrapped the Republic altogether, for various reasons).
Along the way, however, I delved into some of the alternate ideas about the Clone Wars that were out there. There’s not a lot of pre-’99 lore left aside from what was in print from West End and some of the other affiliates. But that alone provides some semi-cohesive inspiration.
And, a friend pointed out the following videos. They’re interesting, and better than what we got, in my estimation, though I went in a considerably different direction.
Star Flight Is A Problem Space Opera Has To Address
Earlier on this blog, I wrote about how Space Opera needs a sense of scale. Space opera is about being Big, with a Capital “B.” This goes back to the very origins of the genre. As I’ve said before, E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman series eventually had entire planets being used as weapons. Edmund Hamilton’s Interstellar Patrol series also included stars, nebulae, and planets as weapons. (In fact, even Poul Anderson used the “weaponized planet,” in Ensign Flandry.) “Big” was never a problem. And “big” requires some form of star flight.
As more authors have tried to write “Hard SF Space Opera,” a challenge has arisen. Yes, space is big. Too big to get far with current understandings of physics.
The Lightspeed Barrier
Space is so huge, and the speed of light (being the theoretical absolute speed limit) so relatively sluggish (though calling 300,000 kilometers per second “sluggish” is a bit off), that getting anywhere even with theoretical tech that’s still way beyond our capabilities would take centuries. That’s a problem when you’re trying to tell an adventure story. If your cast, either aboard the ship or at the destination, will be centuries dead by the time the ship gets there, it makes it hard to tell a rip-roaring story.
Not impossible, mind you. Alistair Reynolds managed it with the Revelation Space series. His lighthuggers were gigantic starships, limited to just under the speed of light. He had to plot separate plot threads, moving forward and back decades, finally coming together at the culmination of each book. And he did a good job of it. It’s just complicated.
It’s also limited to a relatively small area of the galaxy, because of those same constraints. So what do you do if you want to let your space opera sprawl? What if you want the entire galaxy to be your playground, like in Star Wars? Continue reading
Lest anyone think that I don’t like Star Wars, given some of the earlier posts here, I have to make this point. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It’s why I have issues with some of the later entries in the franchise; I think that they don’t do justice to what Star Wars could be. The Original Trilogy remain classics, and having just gone back and rewatched all three, back to back, they still hold up. (Which is why I don’t care for the argument that, “Star Wars is full of plot holes anyway, so you’re dislike of later installments is invalid.”) There’s an ever-expanding universe of new worlds, new aliens, new ships, and hints of a long history.
Star Wars is a huge source of inspiration for The Unity Wars. Because when you watch the movies, there’s a lot that’s implied without being said. And that stuff that’s implied lends huge opportunities for storytelling. Continue reading
STAR WARS introduced a standard of spaceship design.
And it’s a standard that really makes no sense. The deck plans are parallel to the axis of thrust, leading to airplanes and seagoing ships in space. Most of it came from a simple “rule of cool.” George Lucas wanted to replicate old WWII gun camera footage for the trench run, as well as evoke old war movies, most notably The Bridges at Toko-Ri. It was purely aesthetics.
But over time, it’s become a standard. Granted, Star Trek does the same thing, I think largely as “Horatio Hornblower In Space.” (Hornblower was an inspiration for Captain Kirk.) All of the ships are glorified surface navy cruisers, even if they are styled like airplanes or flying saucers. Continue reading
This is a basic truism. (And one that Star Wars really started to fail at with the prequels.) You have an entire galaxy to play in. There is no reason to keep things small. George Lucas started going off the rails when his vast, sweeping space opera became about one small family and the same handful of planets.