Leland Chee

What’s a typical day at the office?

LC: Because we have so many diverse projects going on at a time, I can never be quite sure how my day is going to go. The bulk of of my time is spent going through novel manuscripts, comic book scripts, and video game documents. Oftentimes, the authors and editors will add or point out specific continuity questions on the manuscripts they’d like me to address. As I am going through these, I am creating new entries in the Holocron database for anything new that’s created and adding any new backstory to existing entries. I also spend time going through art, whether it be interior art for Essential Guides, video game concept art, or comic art. At any point through the day, I may get calls or e-mails from editors or authors with questions or requests for reference. The scope of my duties goes beyond publishing and video games. I might be asked to check the text on the back of a trading card, or check trivia questions on a calendar, or confirm vehicle stats on a t-shirt. I might be asked to check pronunciations for an audio book, or someone needs the Aurebesh font, or someone might be looking to confirm that the appropriate translation for “Darth Vader” in French is “Dark Vador.” And I do this for the Indiana Jones material as well.

What are the most common misconceptions about your job?

LC: Star Wars continuity, even EU continuity, does not rest on my shoulders. Our licensees submit product directly to either our editors or our product development managers. The Holocron serves as a tool for them to check any issues regarding continuity, and after that, if the editors or developers have any questions, they pass it along to me to check for continuity. At the same time, I am constantly on the lookout to make sure that any new continuity being created gets entered in the Holocron. With regard to the the films and The Clone Wars, I am not involved in continuity approvals though I have often been asked to provide reference material.

In October of 2006, you posted on your StarWars.com blog that Darth Tenebrous was an official Darth name. In a November 2008 interview with the EU Cantina, James Luceno was asked:

EUC: If you could name the first Darth, what name would you choose?

JL: Darth Tenebrous.

At what point was the name taken, and at what point did it become Plagueis’ master?

LC: James Luceno pegged the name Darth Tenebrous for Darth Plagueis’s Master when he first began working on the Plagueis novel. My goal with the Darth blog was to help fans submitting entries for the Name the Next Sith contest to avoid any names that already been used, or that were being reserved for use in future titles. I believe there were a couple of names on my list that never saw print. I figured revealing a yet-to-appear Darth Name without any context would hardly be considered being a spoiler. Little did I know that it would be over five years before the Tenebrous name appeared in print!

Do you pay attention to the numerous canon/non-canon discussions fans have? For example, the latest one has to do with Plagueis and whether or not the Force actually created Anakin Skywalker, regardless of the fact that Luceno stated in the book that he was created by the Force.

LC: I definitely was more in tune with discussions going on when starwars.com had its message boards. Now I rely more on social media like Twitter and Facebook to keep in touch on these types of issues, though I myself don’t partake in lengthy discussion nor do I actively look at forums on fansites. As to the Anakin Skywalker creation debate, I heard them discussing this on The ForceCast episode that was dedicated to Darth Plagueis. Certainly there are times where there is a conscious effort on our part to leave room for debate.

How do you pronounce Darth Andeddu? Is it really ‘Darth Un-dead-you’?

LC: The official pronunciation I have in the Holocron is an-DEH-doo. I’d have to check with Dark Horse if “un-dead-you” was their intent. Dark Horse generally doesn’t provide pronunciations when they are submitting their comic scripts. We usually don’t determine pronunciation until we are asked to figure it out for a video game, audio book, or a translation.

Is there a chance we’ll ever get a pronunciation guide in audio form?

LC: Two years ago, I would have said ‘no’, but with rapidly developing enhanced e-book technology, that type of functionality would seem possible. As of yet, I haven’t heard of any concrete plans in the works.

In Crosscurrent and Riptide, author Paul S. Kemp brought in the One Sith, mostly through One Sith agents. What were your thoughts on bringing in the One Sith and connecting with the distant Legacy comics?

LC: When Dark Horse developed the Legacy comic series, they created a timeline and backstory that detailed Darth Krayt’s past and built the framework for the formation of the One Sith. We passed this information along to our novel editors and authors in the event that it would ever come up. We know we eventually would like to get from point A (the era of the recent novels) to point B (the era of the Legacy comics), but we also want to make sure what comes in between feels fresh and is unpredictable.

Paul S. Kemp also had a rather unique twist for his One Sith agents in Riptide. The Umbaran twins had a special power that enabled them to strip the Force away. Was there any back and forth suggestions for that new Force ability?

LC: My only restriction on this was that we make sure that this was a rare ability and not something just anybody could learn. There’s certainly precedent for people like Nomi Sunrider severing Ulic Qel Droma’s connection to the Force, ysalamiri pushing back the Force, Yuuzhan Vong being invisible to the Force, and numerous video games having a “Force drain” ability. So this didn’t seem too far of stretch.

One thing that Kemp did in Riptide that has some fans split into opposing groups is what he added to the lightsaber lore. It’s specifically stated that the Force is needed to tune a lightsaber crystal, and later the Umbarans are able to deactivate lightsabers by stripping away the Force. Can you explain how that fits in with the existing canon?

LC: We knew this was a radical idea when Kemp suggested it and that we might be revising some well-established continuity. When making such a bold retcon, we considered how necessary it was for the story, whether there were alternate ways for the author to obtain the same objective, and whether there was an existing precedent for this power. We also considered how the retcon aligned with other things that were also in development at the time.

In Apocalypse Tenel Ka is described as having red gold hair, while Mara is describe as having auburn hair. Is that a mistake?

LC: For the record, the Holocron lists Tenel’s hair as being “rusty brown” and Mara’s being “red/gold.”  This would be the description we’d use for stats, but for novels, I myself tend not to be overly stringent when describing the colors. Maybe it’s the lighting.

In Apocalypse Troy Denning did a lot of work with the Celestials and tie-ins to The Clone Wars “Mortis Trilogy” episodes. How fine of a line did you have to walk there in keeping with canon and keeping some things mysterious?

LC: Dave Filoni brought the Mortis Trilogy episodes to my attention very early on because we knew it would have huge ramifications over our understanding the Force. We had lengthy discussions about Animation’s plans for these characters, and I would run ideas by him and update him on our plans to tie them into Publishing’s efforts. Dave was very supportive of our tying Mortis into the EU and I constantly sought his guidance on areas where there was the potential for conflicting continuity. When you talk about lines being drawn, the thing to understand is that different lines will be drawn for different mediums. That the series even crossed the line of explaining the prophecy of the Chosen One was a line none of us aside from George thought we’d ever cross. I think any line you draw after that seems much less consequential.

When did work start on tying Fate of the Jedi into The Clone Wars? Was the Mortis stuff planned from the beginning, or did the Fate of the Jedi series change after those episodes were conceived?

LC: When we had our first writers’ conference for Fate of the Jedi, the authors teamed together and laid out the groundwork for the series which they presented to the editorial staff. We always knew that this creature from the Maw was going to be a force far beyond what Star Wars fans were accustomed to, but we hadn’t clearly defined exactly how we were going to explain it. We knew it was going to be an organic process that would become clearer after the novels began to take shape. While this was going on, Dave was starting to tell me tidbits about the Mortis Trilogy and at some point it clicked in my head that The Clone Wars and Fate of the Jedi were both dealing with entities with immense powers pushing beyond the “mortal” Star Wars world. Soon after the release of Fate of the Jedi #2 Omen, we had another Fate of the Jedi writer’s conference and it was then that I revealed to the authors what Animation’s plans were in the series with regard to Mortis. I worked closely with Troy Denning is revealing what was going to happen in the Mortis episodes, and it just so happened that many of the ideas Troy was working on matched up nicely with what The Clone Wars was doing and he just took it from there.

Are readers seeing a tighter continuity across eras happening now in relation to tie-ins between the novels, The Clone Wars, and the comics?

LC: We’d been working to tie the EU into The Clone Wars at the onset of the series with our tie-in novels, video games, comics, and online comics, but during Season 1, we learned quickly the pitfalls of trying to develop stories around a series that was jumping all around chronologically. It was impossible to build on anything from the episodes, because you never knew if a prequel episode would be introduced. Even the air order of the episodes had last minute changes, so the ambitious effort of the online comics to serve as bridges between the episodes proved a challenge. With The Clone Wars episodes airing chronologically after the Season 3 midpoint, it definitely opened up the possibility for doing more tie-ins. Clearly Darth Maul’s appearance in The Clone Wars was a galvanizing factor in the most recent efforts to tie in The Clone Wars with the EU and Dave Filoni has always been generous with providing guidance on this. The series incorporating the Nightsisters from the EU proved that the tie-ins could work both ways, and from there the universe just feeds off itself with Mother Talzin taking on a much more prominent role in the EU.

At what point in the reviewing/editing process of a Star Wars book do you come in and look for continuity errors? Do you work with the author during the writing process, after the final draft is submitted, or after the editors go over it?

LC: I work with the Licensing editors at the onset looking at outlines and manuscripts. I have been present for nearly all of the writers’ conferences for the multi-author/multi-book story dating back to when I started in 2000. I work directly with the authors when there are specific continuity points that need ironing out or if the books are heavily tied to other titles currently in development, whether it involves The Clone Wars, video games, or other fiction.

Last but not least, what’s the toughest retcon you and the creative staff have had to come up with?

LC: Characters dying twice is never an ideal situation, but in the past people were able to accept Hobbie surviving the crash into the head of Veers’ AT-AT and General Dodonna dying during the bombing of Yavin only to reemerge years later in a secret Imperial prison. I’m sure some author will figure a way to write in a line that explains the historical inaccuracies surrounding the death of Even Piell. It’ll probably come as no surprise that the toughest retcon is the one we haven’t done yet, and that’s the one that would bring closure to the Republic/Imperial Commando series. Maybe someday.

Interviewed by Roqoo Depot.

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