The Big Idea: Michael Moreci

Cover to Black Star Renegades

Today on the Big Idea: Author Michael Moreci, with his novel Black Star Renegades, shows you how to write a media tie-in that’s not a media tie-in and in fact becomes something else entirely in the telling.

MICHAEL MORECI:

A lot of writers will probably hate me for this, but the idea for Black Star Renegades was kinda given to me. But don’t worry, because this stroke of fortune was proceeded by years and years misery. I’ll explain:

I’m a huge Star Wars fan. Like, it’s unhealthy. I talk about it a lot (sorry to you, my lovely and patient wife), and I write about it a lot (on my own website and for StarWars.com). I even have the Rebel sigil tattooed on my forearm. My brother has the matching Empire sigil on his forearm, so I’m not alone in this. Anyway. One day, I received a call from an editor at St. Martin’s, the future editor of Black Star Renegades. His name is Marc, and Marc said, “Mike, you love Star Wars. Write me something that’s Star Wars.” My first impression was “Isn’t that illegal?” but Marc explained that he wanted something that captured the spirit of Star Wars—pulpy space adventure with a lot of heart, great characters, and boundless imagination. I agreed immediately. Even if Marc had been asking me to write an unsanctioned Star Wars novel, I still would have agreed.

Now, like I said: there’s misery to this story as well. Because the only reason I was on Marc’s radar is because I’d been pitching him for years. I can fill a graveyard with my rejected pitches (and, truthfully, that’s where most of those pitches belong). But that’s how most of professional goes—it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and the trick is to stick around long enough (and be good enough) to one day catch your break. And that’s what happened with Black Star Renegades.

Marc’s phone call and my passion for the galaxy far, far away is what drove the book’s inception. But something strange happened along the way. The more I wrote this book as the stepchild of Lucas’s beloved creation, the less interested in it I became. Don’t get me wrong, Black Star Renegades has Star Wars imprinted in its DNA, and I totally embrace that. I love it for that reason. But I didn’t want my story to be just that. I wanted it to be more, I wanted to have something to say that was my own.

And that’s when it hit me: If I stayed the course and wrote a straight-up Star Wars book, I’d just be a knock-off trying to pass myself off as the real thing. I’d be that dude in the subway selling Versachi bags, and I didn’t want to be that dude in the subway selling Versachi bags.

So I did the only logical thing: I killed the real deal. In the book! I killed the real deal in the book.

But that’s how Black Star Renegades became interesting to me. See, I’ve always had trouble with the messiah complex. The idea that we should sit around and wait for an all-powerful someone or other to come along and save our butts from the fire isn’t a healthy one. It leads to bad places. Like when, oh, I don’t know, a tyrannical buffoon campaigns under the promise that he’s the only one—him alone—who can solve all the country’s problems. And people actually believe him. Because that’s what we’re taught. Iron Man will save us. Luke Skywalker. Katniss Everdeen. Harry Potter. Whoever. There’s a magical chosen one, and without this person we wouldn’t be able to do a darn thing on our own. Sure, we can play supporting roles, but at the end of the day, only one person can vanquish Voldemort or Vader

And that simply isn’t true. That narrative is exactly what I wanted to upend.

It’s funny, because there’s something in the water when it comes to deconstructing the chosen one myth-building, because that’s exactly what The Last Jedi is about. Luke says so himself when he asks Rey if she expects him to take on the First Order all by himself, just him and a “laser sword.” At the time, Rey’s answer would have been yes because that’s exactly what she expected. But she comes to learn, like so many characters in the film story, the dangers in relying on one person—good or evil—to save an entire galaxy. And that’s part of the beauty of The Last Jedi: It shows us that we’re all heroes. Rose, Finn, Poe, Rey—they all play a part in being the heroes of this story. And through their combined efforts, that’s when a difference is made.

Black Star Renegades is unquestionably a Star Wars book. But it’s also an anti-Star Wars book. It’s a galaxy where my version of Luke dies in the first act, and everyone else has to step up and fight back against the tyrannical overlord who didn’t get the memo that one person alone isn’t meant to rule everything and everyone. But the heroes did. They learn that real power comes in unity and togetherness, and that’s how they win.

That’s how we all win.

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Black Star Renegades: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Indiebound|Powell’s

Read an excerpt. Visit the author’s site. Follow him on Twitter.

10 thoughts on “The Big Idea: Michael Moreci

  1. Good luck. Word is that a very popular scifi blogger around these parts even won a Hugo for playing that kind of game with a different scifi “enterprise”!

  2. This is really neat. For all that deconstructionism and postmodernism is in vogue, there actually aren’t that many deconstructions of the Hero’s Journey / Chosen One stories, at least not in this way. I mean, sure, there are a lot of, “The Chosen One is actually kind of a jerk / totally evil,” or, “You just gotta choose yourself,” (which, frustratingly, often plays out exactly like a Chosen One story anyway), or, in my personal favorite incarnation, Avatar The Last Airbender, “The Chosen One can’t do what he’s been chosen to do because it’s deeply against his personal moral code,” changing the story from an external struggle to an inner struggle. And there have been plenty of “background character” stories which are wonderful, both in superhero milieus and in original universes (my favorite being ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness).

    But the whole, “Wait, we were wrong about the chosen one. Now what?” actually isn’t written about all that much, even though it happens so often in real life– way more often than the hero thing panning out as people initially thought. Politicians people believe in don’t get elected; inventors striving to create a life-saving innovation die or get bought-out before they succeed; FBI agents get killed before catching the serial killer. And then everybody else has a choice– give up, or keep trying to solve the problem anyway.

    It’s a very timely book, and I’m eager to read it. I’ve added it to my list.

  3. This is really neat. For all that deconstructionism and postmodernism is in vogue, there actually aren’t that many deconstructions of the Hero’s Journey / Chosen One stories, at least not in this way. I mean, sure, there are a lot of, “The Chosen One is actually kind of a jerk / totally evil,” or, “You just gotta choose yourself,” (which, frustratingly, often plays out exactly like a Chosen One story anyway), or, in my personal favorite incarnation, Avatar The Last Airbender, “The Chosen One can’t do what he’s been chosen to do because it’s deeply against his personal moral code,” changing the story from an external struggle to an inner struggle. And there have been plenty of “background character” stories which are wonderful, both in superhero milieus and in original universes (my favorite being ‘The Rest of Us Just Live Here’ by Patrick Ness).

    But the whole, “Wait, we were wrong about the chosen one. Now what?” actually isn’t written about all that much, even though it happens so often in real life– way more often than the hero thing panning out as people initially thought. Politicians people believe in don’t get elected; inventors striving to create a life-saving innovation die or get bought-out before they succeed; FBI agents get killed before catching the serial killer. And then everybody else has a choice– give up, or keep trying to solve the problem anyway.

    It’s a very timely book, and I’m eager to read it. I’ve added it to my list.

  4. The Lego Movie had “the hero is actually not the Chosen One we thought he was; the real Chosen One is [metafictional twist].” But the hero largely functions like a Chosen One anyway.

  5. Star Wars Spoilers.

    Didnt “the last jedi” kind of end with Luke telling Kylo that its not about Luke saving the galaxy, that the resistance would rebuild, that rey would become the next jedi? That it wasnt about one guy saving the galaxy?

    In a way it felt like the last jedi kinda deconstructed episode 4.

  6. I have to admit I’m cranky these days. I went to read a sample on Amazon, and didn’t actually spot a named female character until page 107. Now, in theory I could have missed something, because the preview skips pages here and there — Kira might have appeared anywhere after page 85. But most of the earlier jumps are just a page or two, and if it’s possible to miss a character that easily, then whoever it was must not have been a very significant presence in the story.

    Color me less interested now.

  7. I make it a policy to never respond to comments, only because it generally leads to bad places, but Marie I’d like to offer a response to what you’ve posted here. You’re right, there isn’t a female character in the first however many pages. But after the short prologue, the only two characters we see for at least 50 pages (I don’t have the book around me) are two brothers. It’s not like there’s this vast cast of characters being introduced in these pages. It’s Cade and Tristan, and that’s pretty much it. Out of this circumstance. Kira is introduced later (as is Ga Halle, the antagonist who is female and, in my opinion, the most compelling character in the book), and she becomes the co-lead in the story.

    I’d like to point this out to you, and whoever else is reading, that inclusion and diversity is important to me and it always has been. If you look at my work in comics, I’m very confident my work supports this claim.

  8. Katniss isn’t a chosen one as much as a drafted one.
    And I think at least as many people take the message as “be the hero” as “wait for the hero” (I do not have statistical surveys to confirm or refute this). And I don’t buy the authoritarian impulses that draw people to Trump have anything to do with fiction (“authoritarian followers” have been around a long time).
    Which is not to say “everyone must step up” is a bad message either.

  9. Michael,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I understand about not usually replying to comments, but in this case it means we can have a conversation, and one that I hope is useful.

    You’re right that for a while there you have a very limited cast, and I could tell that even skimming through the sample. But . . . Qwayg is male. Jorken is male. Even the drone is gendered as male. And Cade has an older brother, not an older sister. So as a reader, picking up this book to see whether it’s something I would like to read, I see a story where the hero is surrounded by men — including all the roles that would imply some kind of greater experience or authority, i.e. the older sibling and the mentor. Those are choices that are within the author’s control. These days, a book that does that has to be really amazing to convince me to keep reading until a female character finally shows up. Which some of them are, but the barrier to entry is higher.

    And yes, I cut more slack to authors whose body of work I’m already familiar with, because in those cases I can trust that the scales will even out. But with an author who is new to me? Given how many novels I’ve picked up that didn’t reward me for extending them the benefit of the doubt, and how many excellent books there are out there that don’t require me to extend them the benefit of the doubt . . . this kind of thing has an effect. Not an outraged “I’m going to boycott this and tell all my friends to do the same” effect, just a tendency for me to go “meh. Not that interested.” And then I move on to the next book on my list.

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