Kevin Shinick is an Emmy award-winning writer, comic book creator, actor, director and multiple Annie award-winning produce best known for his work on Adult Swim’s Robot Chicken and for turning MAD Magazine into the Emmy nominated animated series MAD. Kevin has spent considerable time in the Star Wars universe with the Robot Chicken Star Wars: Episode 2 & 3 specials, the animated series Star Wars: Detours and the Star Wars children’s book, Chewie and the Porgs. Below, he introduces a selection from his new novel, Force Collector, part of Lucasfilm’s Journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker line-up.
It’s hard to imagine a world without Star Wars, but in the early part of 1977, that was the situation. So when television ads for the upcoming movie started to appear, people’s minds were blown. There were these images like nothing I had ever seen before, but not quite enough to tell the whole story, so I let my mind fill in the gaps. From what I could tell, Star Wars was going to be about a bad guy in black who kidnapped a princess and kept her in his castle in the desert. And there were these sand people who protected the castle. At some point, a young boy rescues the princess, because when I saw him heroically swing across the chasm with her, I assumed he was exiting the castle. In fact, in my mind there might’ve even been a moat outside.
Of course when the movie came out, I learned I was right about certain things and very wrong about others. But I wanted to go back and somehow capture the excitement of piecing together Star Wars, and that’s what got me thinking about Force Collector.
Of course we, as an audience, have been lucky enough to have a front row seat to this amazing intergalactic battle, but I wondered, ‘What about the people who lived in that galaxy a long time ago? Would they know as much?’ Chances are they’d know as much about that war as the average person in our world knows about World War II. Sure, we know who the principle players were and who won, but there are so many tales we don’t know about until movies or books like Dunkirk or Schindler’s List come out. That’s when you learn about the smaller stories or the unknown battalions who deserve credit for major wins that no one remembers.
And I thought, in many ways that’s what the Jedi have become. Especially if you live in the Outer Rim where history books are antiquated or just not available. And certainly given the propaganda the Emperor spun to soil the reputation the Jedi had. So my lead protagonist, Karr Nuq Sin, sets out to find the truth about the Jedi almost like he’s finding out about Rosebud in Citizen Kane. Researching, interviewing, experiencing — only he has an added interest because the larger story engulfs his own experience in ways he’s happy about and in ways he’s not.
What I like best about Force Collector is that it gives fans the Star Wars world they know in ways they’ve never seen before, while also offering newcomers a guided tour of some its greatest moments. And it’s all woven together by an original coming-of-age story that readers can relate to.
The passage you’re about to read is one of my favorite scenes in the book, because it encapsulates a lot. It sheds some light on Karr’s mysterious powers, it touches upon bit of Star Wars lore and also attempts to capture the awkwardness of two teens alone together for the first time.
“Let me show you something.”
Before Maize could either agree or protest, Karr pushed aside a curtain in his own bedroom to reveal a closet full of seemingly random objects from all walks of life: belts, staffs, blasters, comlinks, helmets, and more — all of it meticulously cataloged. Scribbled on the walls and shelves beneath the objects were erasable flimsiplast notes with dates, like he’d been trying to map out a whole galaxy using just this oddball collection of stuff.
“Whoa!” she exclaimed. “Did you do all of this?”
He couldn’t tell if she was impressed or horrified. “Yeah.” He cocked his head toward the shelves that held his treasures. “And some of these things have shown me their past.”
Maize took a closer look. She gently picked up a kloo horn and turned it over in her hands. “How does it work?”
“Well, you’ve seen it in action. Sometimes I touch something and everything gets loud and ... and both
bright and dark at the same time. It’s hard to explain. It’s sort of like being on fire, but then other things come through: voices, pictures, colors — and then ... then I black out.”
“It is, sometimes,” he said. “I’m still not sure what causes the flashes, but they’re always something big. It’s almost like some objects are witnesses and they want to tell me what they saw. Does that make sense?”
Maize looked at him blankly, so he decided to keep talking.
“Like this, for example,” he said, picking up a mouthpiece that looked so old it definitely shouldn’t go in anyone’s mouth. “This is an A99 aquata breather that belonged to a fishing merchant. The guy who sold it to me said that the merchant got it from a Jedi that used it for marine reconnaissance. I’d hoped it would show me something about the Jedi, but no matter how hard I concentrate, I can’t get it to zap me with a vision. So either it didn’t experience anything big —”
“Or the guy was pulling your leg,” she interjected.
“There’s a lot of people out there who will take advantage of you, Karr.”
He ignored her and moved on. “But this, on the other hand . . .” He held up a wooden staff, or at least part of one. The top was a silver handle that looked like it had been smoothed in a furnace. The bottom was shattered and fragmented, indicating that it had been longer in its heyday. It was completely blackened and charred, but something kept it from crumbling.
“The first time I touched it, I passed out, fell down, and chipped a tooth.” He flashed her an oversized, slightly jagged smile. “I thought for sure it must’ve belonged to a Jedi, because it affected me so strongly, but in the vision, at least from what I could tell, the owner didn’t wear traditional Jedi garb and I didn’t see a lightsaber anywhere. What’s weird, though, is that he clutched the staff as if it was one ... and I swear I could hear him mumbling about the Force. And he was in the middle of what I think was a big battle.”
Maize gave him a sideways glance. “You hear what you wanna hear, I guess.”
Karr took slight offense. “Maybe. But I don’t always see what I want to see, otherwise I would’ve seen a Jedi by now, wouldn’t I? Anyway, I think that’s when I understood that the items that give me visions always show me things that are significant. Important,” he added, having found a better word. “Fortunately, the Jedi have seen a lot of action, so I search for their things specifically — with the added hope that I can also get a lesson out of the deal — but sometimes I’ll reach for random things as well just to see if they can show me anything.”
“So you still haven’t seen any Jedi then? In life or in your visions,” she said.
He deflated a little. “No. But they were real.”
“But you can’t prove it,” she countered.
“I don’t need to prove it. I know what’s true, and I don’t care if you don’t believe me,” he fibbed. “I swear there’s something in me that guides me toward this stuff. And it can’t just be an unhealthy interest!”
“If you say so.”
Maize slowly walked around the room, running her hands over a few objects as if checking them for dust. She stopped when she spied a datapad on his bed, the screen still faintly glowing. She picked it up and read aloud, “Antique Military Collector’s Guide. What did this tell you?”
“That I’ve been overpaying for this stuff,” he said with a laugh. “I only got it a month ago, and I’ve been spending too many credits. Now I know better.”
“You bought all of these things?”
“No, not all of them. I found some. People gave me some. And yeah, I bought some. After a while I realized I might have some luck looking through junk shops, or bartering with pilots and tourists. Now this handy guide lets me know what something’s worth before I lose too many credits.”
Maize stood with her hands on her hips. She paused and took everything in one more time, as if she was a judge about to present the award for Best Jedi Museum. Then, with an air of authority, she said, “I think you’re crazy.”
Karr was about to argue with her again until he saw the smirk on her face. “I’m just teasing you. Sort of,” she added, sitting on a chair in his room. “Look, the truth is, I only know what I know from my family’s experience. CeSai did really well under the Empire. Then the New Republic kicked the Empire out, and there was no one left to run the planet. Everything fell apart. As for the Jedi, who knows who they were or what they did. I’ve always assumed it was folklore, but” — she looked at him with a glint of adventure in her eyes — “prove me wrong.”
Force Collector arrives on Nov. 19.