Ultimate Star Wars: Chronicling the History of "A Galaxy Far, Far Away"

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“The saga is unlike any other story in popular culture,” Anthony Daniels, known for playing C-3PO in all six Star Wars films, writes in the forward for Ultimate Star Wars. “From the moment audiences ducked down as that Star Destroyer roared overhead, it has enchanted fans around the planet.”

1ultimatestarwarscover.jpgSprung from the mind of George Lucas, Star Wars has mesmerized three generations with its tales of adventure, romance and, of course, the struggle between the Jedi and the Sith. Boasting six films and two animated TV series in the new, official canon, the Star Wars universe can be overwhelming for even the most devoted fans. But thanks to Ultimate Star Wars, DK’s masterpiece of a visual encyclopedia, readers can now access the most comprehensive guide to the “galaxy far, far away” in Star Wars history.

To say the editors at Paste “love” Ultimate Star Wars is an understatement. So we caught up with Ryder Windham and Tricia Bar, two members of the book’s author team that also includes Daniel Wallace and Adam Bray, to talk about all things Star Wars.

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Paste: How did you become a co-author of Ultimate Star Wars?

Ryder Windham: A DK Publishing editor contacted me in May of 2014, asking if I’d work on the book. I’ve written over 50 Star Wars books, including several for DK. After the editor informed me of the scope and deadline for Ultimate Star Wars, I encouraged her to hire three additional writers.

Tricia Barr: I had sent in some sample writing to DK Publishing previously and decided to follow up with Sadie Smith, the managing editor. Luckily, they had a need for authors on Ultimate Star Wars, and the rest is history!

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Paste: What steps were involved in the research process for this book? Any movie marathons or trips to Skywalker Ranch with your co-authors?

Windham: No movie marathons or trips for me. I have a library of Star Wars reference books, some of which I wrote, so I knew where to find most of the information I needed. The editors presented me with long lists of Star Wars characters, locations, vehicles and technology. I helped them determine which entries would be featured in the book and also the approximate word count for each entry. The editors assigned about 38 spreads to me, and I selected and suggested images for those spreads. Working with my suggestions, the designers sent me rough layouts that had dummy text, and I had to write copy and captions to fit the layouts.

Barr: Movie marathons, yes, and in my case, The Clone Wars marathons as well. George Lucas created a ton of amazing new Star Wars lore in the show. Season 6: The Lost Missions had been released around the time I was writing, so I had to get up to speed on that. The unfinished story reels of the Utapau arc were uploaded for the fans to watch on StarWars.com, too. I stayed up late one night to watch them, because some of my writing topics involved that location.

I had a lot of reference books in front of me at all times, but, really, the information we are trying to distill is in the movies and television shows, so I relied on them. Who would complain about watching Star Wars for your job?

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Paste: Even though you’ve been a Star Wars fan for years, what was something exciting that you learned while writing the book?

Windham: I learned that Lando Calrissian would appear in an episode of Star Wars Rebels, which I thought was very cool. The editors had organized characters in order of their chronological introductions to the Star Wars saga, and I noticed they’d shifted Lando so he was amidst characters introduced in Rebels instead of The Empire Strikes Back. This was months before Rebels premiered on TV, so that was a nice surprise.

Barr: Working on The Clone Wars section really helped highlight to me how many great and different female characters had been introduced into the galaxy far, far away. The movies had fantastic female leads with Princess Leia and Padmé Amidala, but the variety in a show targeted at kids is rare.

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Paste: What makes Ultimate Star Wars unique from other books about the Star Wars universe?

Windham: Simply put, it’s the most comprehensive guide to the Star Wars saga thus far. It includes images and info from Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels as well as from Episodes I through VI. It’s huge.

Barr: It is the first resource to capture everything that is being used going forward. I feel like I was creating a piece of Star Wars history. Beyond that, this book is gorgeous and I think people will not be able to resist flipping through the pages.

Paste: Now for a fun one: Which Star Wars film is your favorite and why?

Windham: I snuck out of high school to see The Empire Strikes Back the day it was released in 1980. At the time, my general experience with sequels was that they were rarely as good as their predecessors, and I loved the first Star Wars movie, so my expectations weren’t very high for Empire. But everything about Empire was better than I expected, especially the story. Even though its ending leaves various concerns unresolved, Empire is the greatest and most emotionally satisfying space opera ever made.

Barr: The Empire Strikes Back tops my list. The movie has all the best elements of Star Wars: romance, suspense, family drama, humor and Force lore.

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