Good day book lovers!
Welcome again to The Reading Hour. We need to thank all of you who visited our blog and read theinterview with incredible Helen Stringer! We have received a lot of attention from s-f and Young Adults readers on both sides of the Atlantic and we are incredibly proud. If anybody tells you that dystopian or s-f literature is no longer popular, don’t believe a single word they say. We know better and have excellent blog stats to prove that.
If you have missed our talk with Helen, please click on the link below:
Today, our guest is Nathan P Butler, a popular s-f writer and a living legend in Star Wars fandom!
We have interviewed Nathan especially for our blog in October 2013. Enjoy!
The Reading Hour – 15 (un)easy questions for Nathan P Butler
Vanadian Avenue: Your name is known far and wide in the Galaxy Far Away but please introduce yourself to our readers.
Nathan P Butler: I’m Nathan P. Butler. By profession, I’m a high school Social Studies teacher in the Atlanta area and a freelance science fiction writer, having published works through Dark Horse Comics and Grail Quest Books. I am also an avid Star Wars fan, having produced the Star Wars Timeline Project (now the Star Wars Timeline Gold) since 1997, having hosted (and currently hosting) Star Wars podcasts since 2002, and now moving into several new YouTube video series on the subject. I also run the Star Wars fan audio “hub” site StarWarsFanworks.com.
Vanadian Avenue: A question everybody wants to ask: How would someone become a Star Wars writer? What do you have to do for LucasArts to approach you with an offer to write a SW book?
Nathan P Butler: I am probably not the best person to answer this because, frankly, my experience was a fluke. I had been working on my Star Wars timeline document online for about seven years and had been a Star Wars podcaster for two years or so when I had the chance to write for Star Wars Tales in 2004. It was one of the few times in the history of Star Wars publishing that a publication was given leeway to go with writers who were untested and not necessarily previously published. Jeremy Barlow, the Associate Editor of the Star Wars line for Dark Horse Comics at the time, had seen my timeline and either heard or heard of my podcast and fan-made Star Wars audio dramas and felt that I was a good fit to write a short tale for that anthology series. Probably the one part of my experience that is similar to most writers is that you have to be “invited to the party.” You cannot actively submit works or seek the opportunity to write for Star Wars; they have to come to you. That would also include my later chances to impact the saga, such as being asked to assist Jason Fry and Daniel Wallace on some material for the Star Wars Essential Atlas and the like. I was simply very lucky or blessed to be in the right place at the right time.
Vanadian Avenue: How long did it take you to write “Equals & Opposites”? Was it hard to come up with a storyline?
Nathan P Butler: The story pitch was made in March 2004, and the final approved script with all Dark Horse and Lucasfilm edits and such worked in was ready about two months later. Granted, I believe that Jeremy had a bit more leeway with me, given my inexperience at the time, so I had more opportunities for feedback and a dialogue with Jeremy than I would imagine a more seasoned writer would have had. He definitely was there to make sure it was a smooth process. As for coming up with the story, there were actually a couple of different pitches that emerged. One that focused on the Yuuzhan Vong War and briefly included Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors eventually became, through discussions with Jeremy and feedback from Lucasfilm, a story that was more personal for Kyle and Jan. The real heart of the story for me, though, was based on some feedback that was received. I was not allowed to make Kyle and Jan a married couple in the story, which was a bit of a surprise, given how many longtime Star Wars partnerships become married couples. That quickly became the focus of the banter and character development for the pair in the story, with the Vong encounter surrounding it as its context, though not its core.
Vanadian Avenue: Having a Star Wars character named after yourself is a dream come true for every fan. What was your reaction when you learnt that Jeremy Barlow created Krono Relt to honor you?
Nathan P Butler: I was quite excited, as one might expect. I actually had no idea that was the case until Jeremy told me and explained the name’s origins: “Krono” from ChronoRadio (my first podcast) and “Relt” from the last four letters of my surname spelled backward. I was even more stoked when, as a sort of congratulations for finishing the writing process, he sent me a signed copy of that issue (Empire #13), which was his own first Star Wars comic writing experience, I believe.
Vanadian Avenue: With such enormous universe, Star Wars has many plot (black) holes and non canon endings. Every writer has their own way to cover up mistakes in the storyline. What are your tricks to unified Star Wars history?
Nathan P Butler: That depends on what perspective we’re coming from. If the issue is how to consider it all to be one unified history without errors, then I’d have to say that I simply don’t consider it to be such a thing. There are certainly plenty of contradictions, intentional and unintentional, especially as Lucas re-entered the saga, circa 1999 – 2005 and 2008 – 2013. As for how to keep it all straight for my Star Wars Timeline Gold, I think the key is intellectual honesty. Take at face value what we are told is the case, work in the retcons as they are explained or released, ask questions when necessary, and just roll with the punches. If a contradiction exists, note it and move on. One thing that I feel strongly about is that fans should not just make up stuff as we go along to fit things together. That isn’t “canon” it’s “fanon” and it has no bearing on the official Star Wars universe.
Vanadian Avenue: Let’s play favorites: who is your favorite character in Star Wars and why? You can choose one character from the movies and one from the books.
Nathan P Butler: My personal favorite is Cade Skywalker, the protagonist of the first Star Wars: Legacy comic series by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema. Cade is a descendant of Luke Skywalker, who is an adult in an era over 130 years after Return of the Jedi. With a new Sith Order having again wiped out most of the Jedi Order and solidified an Empire over much of the galaxy, Cade is a Skywalker on the run from his past when we meet him. He is a bounty hunter, raised in part by Jedi but later by pirates, and he is a drug addict, using “deathsticks” to try to shut out the Force. His story is one about reclaiming one’s identity, truly choosing between Light and Dark when both seem viable options at times, and one of finding selflessness in a character who had fallen into selfishness. One of his most repeated lines, “We take what is given,” is a mantra that I think all of us could benefit from acknowledging in our everyday lives.
Vanadian Avenue: Is there a Star Wars character you would never write about? The fan base is not particularly kind to Jar Jar Binks. Name one character you would love to have crossed – out of the Extended Universe once and for all.
Nathan P Butler: There are certainly plenty of characters that we’ve grown to dislike over the years. I would love to see Jar Jar toned down in the films, though he works as the “fool” character for The Clone Wars and in how he is manipulated in Attack of the Clones. If I had to choose one character, it would probably have to be Waru the “anti-Force being” from The Crystal Star. If I could choose a performance, it’d be B.J. Hughes voice acting as Jar Jar Binks before Ahmed Best returned to the role. If I could choose a group of characters, I’d love to see the characterizations of the Ewoks from the second season of that cartoon series entirely wiped from existence in favor of their personalities in the first season – before their souls were removed, so to speak.
Vanadian Avenue: Your expert knowledge about chronology and events within Star Wars Extended Universe is legendary. You have served as an advisor for many other writers and even developed in-universe digital calendar for “Star Wars: The Essential Atlas” written by Daniel Wallace and Jason Fry. Can you could give us some examples of the worst crimes against the canon chronology ever committed that you managed to find?
Nathan P Butler: In recent memory, the Coruscant Nights books come to mind. Repeatedly in that series, the author(s) managed to foul up the dates of Michael Reaves’ previous novel, Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, and the dates of the prequels in relation to that novel. The entire climax of the third novel, Patterns of Force, relies on the idea that a substance carried around since the Clone Wars has basically spoiled in the decade(s) since the conflict. But . . . it hasn’t been decades, or even years. It has been a matter of months instead. The co-author of the latter books in that line has also continued to claim in interviews that a character that was gravely injured in a Coruscant Nights book did, in fact, die, despite that character showing up later in Luke Skywalker and the Shadows of Mindor, very much alive. Usually, though, the biggest continuity headaches come from Lucas himself. He played his cards close to the chest before creating the Prequel Trilogy, so things like Jedi not being able to marry, Greedo’s Prequel-era appearances, and such were things that contradicted previous Expanded Universe materials that had been created before knowing about these ideas from Lucas. The biggest issue of this kind came with the recent The Clone Wars cartoon series. Lucas let Dark Horse, Del Rey, LucasArts, and others fill in the era of the Clone Wars in a very intricate, often week-to-week, storyline, only to come back three years later and say, “Oh, I’m going to create a new TV show that takes place in this era, so move aside!” The continuity chaos created by The Clone Wars has created some irreconcilable issues in that era, and, at present, there are apparently no plans to try to fully integrate the 2002 – 2007 and 2008+ versions of that era into one coherent timeline. Granted, Lucas has every right to re-enter and expand upon his own saga, and it is the peril of any licensed work author to know that their stories could be wiped out at any time if the power behind it all were to exert itself again, but however we look at it, it is the biggest continuity train wreck the saga has ever seen.
Vanadian Avenue: Star Wars is not just another complete universe – it’s a pop cultural phenomenon. We suppose there is a pressure on writers regarding new story lines. If you have ever experienced it either from publishers or the fans, would you like to speak about it?
Nathan P Butler: Personally, I did not feel it much, other than knowing that fans had been wanting the Yuuzhan Vong and Kyle Katarn in comics for a while, and I’d be the one bringing them into that arena with the story. In a lot of ways, though, I’d imagine that writing a Star Wars story is both a blessing and a curse for a novelist or someone embarking on a full comic series. On the one hand, your name becomes instantly known, and you sell quite a lot of copies based on the Star Wars name alone. On the other hand, your work will be fodder for snarky reviewers out in the fandom community like me, which is not always a pretty sight.
Vanadian Avenue: You are the driving force and the main writer behind Star Wars Timeline Gold. Can you tell us more about this project?
Nathan P Butler: The SWT-G is a massive Star Wars chronology document (or set of documents, as it is now four PDF files) that chronicles the saga in the most comprehensive format currently available anywhere. It began as a small document for my own use, started to be released online in late 1997, and has grown by leaps and bounds since. The last edition (August 2013) came in at 2,459 pages between the four documents. If you’re looking for Star Wars chronological information or a comprehensive history of that universe, it’s where to look.
Vanadian Avenue: Outside of your work for Star Wars, you have also released an original novel entitled “Greater Good” and WARS: The Battle of Phobos novella through Grail Quest Books. Where can we buy them?
Nathan P Butler: Greater Good, my sci-fi thriller of time travel and telepaths/telekinetic can be found in paperback through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though the best place (if you want to support Grail Quest Books and me directly) is to order through MiddleEarthShop.com. Greater Good is also in ebook format for Kindle and Nook. WARS: The Battle of Phobos is a nine-novella series that is still ongoing, for which I wrote two novellas: Healers and Hunters, then On Red Soil. Both are available as an ebook for Nook and Kindle, and they are each one of three collected novellas in the paperback WARS: The Battle of Phobos, Vol. 1: Preludes and Vol. 2: Stretti, respectively. These are also available through Amazon and Barnes and Noble, though more supportive if picked up through MiddleEarthShop.com.
Vanadian Avenue: Audio dramas seem to be another hobby of yours. You have produced many Star Wars related dramas as well as original ones since 2002. What’s so fascinating about them?
Nathan P Butler: I personally enjoy the freedom that the medium provides. While you are limited by being in an audio-only medium, you are also not limited by things like special effects budgets or the kind of considerations necessary in trying to produce film projects. With good voice actors and a nice library of music and sound effects, you can create an engaging audio drama with team members all over the world. In fact, it was the desire to produce an unpredictable, high-end fan film script that led to the production of my first (and the first in online Star Wars fandom) audio drama, Star Wars: Second Strike.
Vanadian Avenue: What exactly is www.starwarsfanworks.com? How varied and well organized is the audiodrama community on the internet?
Nathan P Butler: It started as a sort of go-to directory and feature site for the Star Wars fan audio community when it was just getting off the ground in 2003. Today, it acts as a directory page to help people find Star Wars podcasts, past and present, small and large, along with audio dramas and audio parodies (that is, parody stories, not musical parodies). Originally, the community based around Star Wars fan audio was fairly cohesive, but as podcasting has become a much bigger part of our culture, it has expanded and integrated into that broader podcasting community to the extent that it isn’t often a cohesive whole so much as just a lot of networking between people interested in the same general subjects and franchises.
Vanadian Avenue: Nathan, you are also a teacher and author of educational podcasts for students in Economics, United States History and World History. Does your experience as a writer and producer come handy in the class room?
Nathan P Butler: I’m not sure that the writing and producing has very often, but the podcasting has come in handy. I have created podcast study guides for World History, Economics, and United States History, based on the Georgia Performance Standards that are now used across the state. I also find that podcasting has helped me as a communicator, which I’d like to think makes me more engaging and clear in classroom lessons.
Vanadian Avenue: Any plans for the future? What can we expect from you in the next months to come?
Nathan P Butler: Writing-wise, I am not really in a position to do much at the moment, as I’m teaching three different kinds of classes every day, recently married, and juggling a lot of work and financial responsibilities at the moment. What remain on my plate right now is the fandom projects, which are stress relief to me. So, fans that are following my YouTube channel will see more of my From the Star Wars Library video series and its spinoff, From the Star Wars Home Video Library. New editions of the Star Wars Timeline Gold will continue to be released each year. More often than either of those, fans can keep up with my podcasting. I continue to host Star Wars Beyond the Films at StarWarsReport.com with Mark Hurliman with new episodes each week, and we are awaiting an upcoming release of our The Clone Wars film retrospective review on Republic Forces Radio Network to announce the future of that team in relation to the potential of covering Star Wars: Rebels in the future. Big announcements are coming in that regard, but nothing I can reveal prior to that episode’s release. It’s all good things, I’m inclined to say, but I’m biased on the subject, of course.
Vanadian Avenue: We are much obliged! Thank you for your time.
Nathan P Butler: My pleasure. Thank you.
Useful links about Nathan:
Official site: http://www.nathanpbutler.com/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nathanpbutlerauthor
Star Wars Fan Works: http://www.starwarsfanworks.com/
Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/swfanworks
Grail Quest Books (Publisher):
Wookiepedia bio: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Nathan_Butler
ATTENTION PLEASE! Dear Readers. If you are Star Wars fans and have enjoyed Nathan contribution to the Extended Universe and SW Fandom, would you kindly consider helping him out in really difficult times? Nathan’s beloved wife, Jodi is very ill and they need financial assistance. Living in Europe, we have access to free state health care and we consider it not a benefit but our constitutional right. However, things are different in America. The statistics say that nearly 50 million of people have no medical insurance of any kind and are forced to pay horrendous amounts of money for scans or tests. This is what happened to Jodi. Vanadian Avenue crew, Nathan and Jodi will be forever grateful for your kindness. Every little helps, guys – if you are not able to donate, please order a book or just pass the word around. A big thank you for your assistance. Jodi’s medical fund link can be found here:
Have a lovely day and please return shortly as The Reading Hour will be back sooner than you think!
Rita and Mal
We have something über – cool to announce! Our friends at Malta Comic Con featured interview with Nathan on their website and linked back to us. This story is now featured promptly on Comic Con website in the news section. You can check the screenshots below:
or follow the direct URL here:
You can also follow Malta Comic Con on their Facebook page:
We don’t have to tell you how excited and happy we are! Thank you guys and comics lovers of the world unite!