Writer John Jackson Miller has contributed many things to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, including the comic series Knights of the Old Republic, which concluded its 50-issue run last year, and the ongoing novella series Lost Tribe of the Sith. In an interview, he talked about his past Star Wars work and his new project, Knight Errant.
Miller began his career in the comics industry as a journalist. "I was editor for the trade magazine for the comics industry for about ten years, worked on several books about comics, and along the way I made contacts in the business," he said. "Once I was pretty much done with the reporting, I talked to Marvel about possibly writing comic books... At some point I made a call to Dark Horse to see if they were looking for writers, and that resulted in the assignment to do a single issue of a series called Star Wars: Empire. And I guess that audition went well, because in 2005 they asked me to develop a series set in the Knights of the Old Republic [video game] time frame, and that went on to become the series called Knights of the Old Republic."
Writing for Star Wars has been "a real blast," added Miller: "Star Wars comics are one of the things that got me into comics to begin with, years and years ago, and it's been wonderful to be able to do it professionally."
But why the Knights of the Old Republic era -- nearly 4,000 years before the Star Wars films, far away from familiar characters and events? "It's what happened to be available," he said; "but I have to say that it's fun to be able to spread out and write about a time in the chronology, a time in the continuity where there's not a lot of stuff to run into. When we did the Knights of the Old Republic comic series, we were in a reasonably open area, but we still had the video games that were there seven years after our series was set."
Knight Errant, Miller's ongoing comic series and upcoming novel, also takes place in a reasonably empty period in Star Wars chronology: 1,000 years before The Phantom Menace. "That is a time where it's 30 years from anything," said Miller. "The closest thing to them are the Darth Bane novels, and Dark Horse had a series called Jedi vs. Sith -- that all takes place a generation ahead... I wanted to be so far away from these other things that we weren't always worried about, 'Well, will this character make a cameo appearance, or will that character make a cameo appearance.' Many of the principals in the Darth Bane novels haven't been born yet."
Working in this new era of Star Wars history will give Miller lots of room to explore. "Part of the backstory is that before Darth Vader and Palpatine, there were a thousand years where there were only two Sith Lords, there was a master and an apprentice." That era ended with Darth Bane, in Miller's words, "being like, 'Oh my gosh, there are just scads and scads of Sith Lords around, and they can't get organized, and they're always fighting with each other -- because, you know, that's what they do, it's natural to them.' And he ends up wiping everybody out and instituting what they call the Rule of Two, there can only be two Sith Lords at any one time. What I wanted to look at was, what was the situation that caused him to have to make that decision?"
The period of the New Sith Wars, from around 2,000 to 1,000 BBY, is "a dark age for the Republic," said Miller. "There are so many Sith Lords out there. All you have to do to become a Sith Lord is pretty much say that you are one -- there's not a membership test. You just have to say that you are a Sith Lord, and then you have to survive everyone else trying to kill you... The thing that's helpful to the Republic is really hurtful to everybody else, is this fact that these Sith Lords who, if they just got organized, would be able to destroy the Republic -- they all decide, we're going to fight with each other to see who's the top dog, to see who can have the right to go after the Republic himself, or herself."