So, after sneering at the Star Wars books my whole life as pulp fiction, then being pleasantly surprised by the gripping Thrawn Trilogy and Hand of Thrawn duo, I boldly sallied forth to the "Sci Fi" section of the used bookstore. It was a bewildering place, full of garishly colored covers with strange aliens and melodramatic titles, all on those small fat volumes that I had spent most of my life avoiding. But my husband's birthday was in a few days, and with the best bits of the Thrawn books still ringing in my ears, I looked at the section with new respect, thinking what deep questions or compelling characters lay buried behind those garish paperbacks.
I bought him the first 3 books of the "Exciting New (in '96) X-Wing Series!", its cover illustrations glam shots of X wings, Tie fighters, and space stations, downright respectable looking.
It made me realize how much Zahn really understood women, and (cough, cough) The Universe (because we're just that important).
So, Zahn understands how women tick. He knows they want respect, and more importantly, what kind of respect.
He knows what they find attractive in a guy. And what behaviour impresses them, especially even after he's let you down.
He knows how they feel about their honor, past relationships, children, and loyalty. He knows how they want to seem, how they want to be portrayed, and especially how they fight (with guys).
And Stackpole...well....almost all the characters feel very flat. The drama is somewhat high-schoolerish. The badguys cackle melodramatically (kinda). The goodguys are of the "I'll never surrender to you, Duku!" variety. And the women......
In the very first book "Rogue Squadron" the main girl finds herself thinking the main boy is awesome, despite not wanting to, because his dad did something mean to her dad. Oh the romantic tension! Very standard so far, girl with mixed feelings for guy, what is she to do?
Mara's (ala Zahn) solution:
Beat him up or try to kill him or avoid him
Mirax's (ala Stackpole) solution.
Hit on him, to try to hook up with him, so she'll despise him, so she won't think he's awesome, so she remains loyal to her Dad in not liking this guy.
I humbly suggest this as the new cover to Rogue Squadron.
And in the meantime, I declare only Zahn's books to be Star Wars Canon for books.
Zahn's star wars books were infinitely superior. First off, his characters operated in a world that felt like, well, a world with old people, and kids, and convoluted mid-life crises grownups, and young people, etc. Stackpole's world feels like a perpetual high school world, populated only by high schoolers.
Secondly, HIS WOMEN ACTED LIKE REAL WOMEN. They think, fight, and show their loyalty, like real women. And best of all, they're kinda awesome. And they don't throw themselves at guys in convoluted logic circles to make themselves not like them. And the guys that like them actually respect them, a lot. And the women also have awesome ninja skills, which they don't use to wantonly kill, but to protect those they are fiercely loyal to, like she-bears.
Thirdly, there is a moral structure to the universe. It's implied. You
see stable marriages. You see a husband holding his wife while she's
going through labor. You see farmers getting in TIE fighters to defend
their homes, you see the hero fight like a teenager and then humbly
apologize, you see the bitterness that tears apart worlds when race
crimes are not forgiven, you see people bothered by sketchy pasts, you see a middle
aged man trying to make things right with his octogenarian mentor, and
you see a woman looking through the dysfunctions of her
friend-turned-assassin and choose to love and choose to forgive. Its a
moral universe that feels real. That has real repurcussions to things.
In which dying to yourself, and protecting the weak, and repenting of
pride, and forgiveness is the only way to peace.
It is a world which has a sky.