Author Chuck Wendig has a simple message for those who say he's ruining Star Wars by making a lead character of his novel Star Wars: Aftermath a gay man: "You're not the good guys."
Wendig's Aftermath hit shelves on Sept. 4 as part of the Force Friday merchandise event for the new Star Wars trilogy. It's among the first installments in a new state of Star Wars continuity — since the slate of the the Star Wars Expanded Universe was wiped clean for the new movies — and it's the very first look that fans have at the new state of the galaxy after the events of Return of the Jedi. Aftermath follows the adventures of Sinjir Rath Velus, and Imperial officer who turns from the Empire after witnessing the Battle of Endor — it's okay, Sinjir, we all felt bad when that one Ewok tried to get his dead Ewok buddy to stand up — and joins the Rebellion.
Sinjir's sexuality, while definitely established, is not a huge part of the events of Aftermath. During a rather frank exchange with a female character in the novel, he states that he's not interested in women romantically. It's a lighthearted, somewhat awkward scene, and isn't referenced again in the novel.
But just because Sinjir's sexuality is a minor note in Aftermath doesn't mean it wasn't something Wendig took seriously. He told Entertainment Weekly:
"I think fiction has sort of a value and an opportunity to speak to audiences beyond both the author and beyond what you 'expect' that audience to be. And it allows people to see themselves in stories where, before, they hadn't. I don't think it's necessarily the responsibility of storytellers to do that, because everybody's free to tell the stories they want to tell, but I think there is a value and opportunity in doing so."
This isn't the first time that a Star Wars novel has featured a gay character. That honor goes to Star Wars: Lord of the Sith, released earlier this year, and its Moff Mors, an openly lesbian woman. Sinjir also isn't the only gay character in Aftermath, as a lesbian couple are among the book's secondary characters.
But the news that a major Star Wars novel has a gay protagonist is still controversial in the year 2015. At the moment, Aftermath's Amazon.com listing stands at 2.5 out of 5 stars, with one-star reviews making up 40 percent of those. Wendig himself acknowledges that poor reviews of his book (which aren't necessarily hurting him that badly, due to the nature of Amazon's algorithms) likely come from three main sources:
- Folks who have issue with his writing itself
- Folks who have set themselves up to dislike the new Star Wars canon out of love for the old, defunct one
- Folks who are cool with a universe where giant slugs desire to sexually enslave humanoid women, but not where men dare to casually mention their sexual or romantic feelings for men
Naturally some of these points are more defensible or understandable than others, and Wendig had some choice words for that last group in a recent blog post about his experience launching the book. (Not the only time that somebody working on the Star Wars universe has thrown down the gauntlet on the insensitive lately.)
If you're upset because I put gay characters and a gay protagonist in the book, I got nothing for you... You're not the Rebel Alliance. You're not the good guys. You're the fucking Empire, man. You're the shitty, oppressive, totalitarian Empire. If you can imagine a world where Luke Skywalker would be irritated that there were gay people around him, you completely missed the point of Star Wars. It's like trying to picture Jesus kicking lepers in the throat instead of curing them. Stop being the Empire. Join the Rebel Alliance. We have love and inclusion and great music and cute droids.
He's right. And he's definitely right about the droids. Polygon will have more on Aftermath and what it means for the Star Wars universe for you soon.