How Chuck Wendig’s Star Wars: Aftermath novel sets the stage for The Force Awakens

For a long time, Chuck Wendig couldn’t tell a soul what he was writing.

His Star Wars novel about what happens in the galaxy immediately after the death of Darth Vader and destruction of the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi…?

Top secret. Classified. If-you-knew-about-it-he’d-have-to-kill-you kind of thing.

But the author of the supernatural thriller Blackbirds and the fantasy adventure Under the Empyrean Sky was bursting to tell the world about Star Wars: Aftermath, the book that finally hits stores today. So for months on Twitter he joked about penning the sequel to a beloved pop culture series.

“I kept lying about how I was writing this Perfect Stranger official, canonized novel that was coming out. People were like, what are you talking about?” Wendig says with a laugh.

That would be the 1986-93 ABC sitcom about uptight Cousin Larry and his naïve foreign sheepherder relative Balki Bartokamous. Not exactly the kind of series that has fans clamoring to explore its aftermath.

Wendig made sure to slip in an homage to his cover story anyway. “Balki’s in there,” he says. “There’s a Viper droid named BALK1.”

Among the actual Star Wars characters who turn up in Aftermath: Han Solo (looking like we haven’t seen him before) and Chewbacca break with the Rebellion and pilot the Millennium Falcon on a rogue mission; the bounty hunter Dengar (known for attire you could only call massive head-wound chic) engages in some high-stakes fisticuffs; and a new character examines some familiar Mandalorian armor found in the desert of Tatooine, among other vignettes.

But those exist as short stories interspersed throughout a longer main narrative set on the planet Akiva, where Imperial remnants are regrouping and trying to decide whether to keep running in their weakened state or lash back against the victorious Rebels with whatever strength they can muster. A few rebellion-friendly stragglers join forces to make either choice difficult for them.

Now that he no longer has to hide his Aftermath story, here’s the first of a multi-part series on Wendig’s Star Wars tale, focusing first on the new characters he’s introducing and where we find the Empire after its fall.

Entertainment Weekly: Is your heart beating fast for a look at The Force Awakens this December, or do you know everything there is to know about what’s coming?

Chuck Wendig: I do not know everything that’s coming, so my excitement and all the spoilers and all that good stuff are largely preserved. So, man, I am geeking out.

Aftermath takes place just a few months after the events of Return of the Jedi. Tell me about where we find things at the beginning of your story?

At the end of Return of the Jedi, it’s a bunch of Ewok dancing and we’re having a good time and then it’s over. Everything is happy. My brain was always like, well where does it go next? [Admiral] Akbar gives this speech about how the rebellion is over. That’s done. But now the war begins.

Wasn’t the war already going?

Now it’s not just this little tiny insurgent fighting force who’s like a grit of sand in the Empire’s eye. Now they’re a New Republic going toe-to-toe with the Empire in a somewhat more proper war. That’s where we begin, that hot conflict between these two massive galactic forces.

In the Return of the Jedi special editions, George Lucas added scenes of other planets celebrating the Empire’s apparent demise, including the statue of Palpatine falling on the capital planet Coruscant. You give us a scene there of the celebrations, but it takes a dark turn.

You’ve got this moment where the people feel like they’ve regained some power. They’ve probably seen holovids or at least heard the rumors that the Death Star has exploded and these tyrants who have been lording over the galaxy are now gone, but this is the Empire’s throne world, man. This is where Palpatine nests, this is where the heart of the Empire is. So you can be sure it’s not just like you flip a switch and everybody’s happy.

And the Imperials on Coruscant are definitely not celebrating.

This place is still occupied by the Empire. So you have these people, essentially a resistance or rebellious force, tearing that statue down, and suddenly Imperial forces sweep down upon them. It becomes a brutal struggle between oppression and the freedom fighters.

Then you get into the real heart of the story, and a character we’re familiar with from the original trilogy, Wedge Antilles. He’s one of the more famous X-Wing pilots and a leader in the Rebellion. He’s now scouting remote worlds, trying to identify little hotspots where the Empire may be hiding.

He’s looking for supply lines. Like, how is the Empire staying alive with the Death Star and all of their forces gone? You don’t want to find what you’re looking for in that case. He finds something much bigger than he’s looking for.

NEXT PAGE: Wendig introduces us to Aftermath’s villains …


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