By Rachel Maurer

Star Wars books have never gone out of style, but with Rogue One still fresh in our minds and Episode VIII on the horizon Lucasfilm Publishing seems busier than ever. Friday’s panel gave us some face time with fan-favorite Star Wars authors and new blood alike as they discussed current projects and reminisced in celebration of the 40thanniversary of the franchise.

A good portion of this year’s offerings are aimed at middle grade readers, which is fitting for a property that tends to be passed down excitedly from fan parent to fan child. In fact, Ben Blacker (Join the Resistance, with Ben Acker) described first seeing The Empire Strikes Back in a packed theater with his father, sitting in an aisle together so close to the screen that the looming image of Darth Vader left a lifelong impression. Jerret Krosoczka (Jedi Academy: The Force Oversleeps) grew up on the arcade games but didn’t watch the films themselves until college, when a friend – whose name he used in Jedi Academy in return – finally showed him the original trilogy. Krosoczka told the story of being scared to tears by ET as a child, causing his grandparents to skip Star Wars to avoid a similar scene. In turn, Krosoczka says he wants the books he writes to be accessible to those kids – kids who will inevitably love certain aspects of the story but aren’t necessarily ready for the darker, scarier parts of the films.

Author Christian Blauvelt’s first entry in the Star Wars catalogue is Star Wars Made Easy, a book he describes as Star Wars 101, written for those who may just be jumping into the franchise and feeling lost. As a child neither his parents nor his friends were fans, and Blauvelt says he wishes his younger self had such a book that could’ve helped ease people into the galaxy’s overwhelming amount of detail and lore.

On the YA front, Star Wars heroines are getting a lot of love. Beth Revis’s Rebel Rising will flesh out Jyn Erso’s story, spanning from the moment Saw Gerrera opens that hatch till she winds up imprisoned. Claudia Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan will present Leia’s origin story in the context of the rebellion. Gray notes that covering this period of her life, pre-Rogue One/A New Hope, also means we can expect a lot of Bail and Breia Organa. We’ll learn more about them – and Alderaan itself – through Leia’s eyes.

There’s a video game tie-in on the roster as well. Christie Golden’s Inferno Squad will set up the events of the highly-anticipated Battlefront II. The story takes place four years prior and will introduce the game’s characters both to the reader and to each other, following them as they first get their feet wet and eventually encounter the remnants of Saw Gerrera’s Partisans.

The panelists touched on the comic book side of things as well. Cullen Bunn recently wrapped his Darth Maul series, which is set pre-Episode I and delves into the character’s motivations. Bunn described Maul’s struggle to stay patient and follow the plans laid out by Darth Sidious while constantly “seething and ready to fight Jedi”. On the other side of the spectrum, Cavan Scott and Landry Walker talked Star Wars Adventures and how they wanted to create a comic fans of all ages could enjoy, just like the films themselves. They mentioned a focus on peripheral characters across each era of the story, beginning with Rey and her interactions with the inhabitants of Niima Outpost before BB-8’s arrival.

On the announcement front, the room let out a collective gasp upon hearing that Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn novel will be adapted into a comic by Marvel. Written by Jody Houser, with art by Luke Ross and Nolan Woodard, Thrawn is scheduled for February 2018.

Surprise panelist Kevin Shinick teased his new children’s title Chewie and the Porgs with a Wookie roar and an adorable cover, and we got a glimpse of Phil Noto’s cover for Cobalt Squadron, written by Elizabeth Wein and starring Episode VIII’s Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Both titles will be available December 15th.

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