|Sphere paperback 1977, cover art by John Berkey (scan of my copy)|
Foster met with production staff in December 1975, where he was given a script, some of Ralph McQuarrie’s pre-production art and a tour of Industrial Light & Magic. He was also shown some special effects footage, which fired his imagination. “Between the 16mm reel and McQuarrie’s art I felt I had a good idea [of what the film would look like],” he later said. “But I was doubtful everything that was on the page would actually end up on screen. I was pretty stunned when it did, and then some.”
|Sphere paperback 1977 back cover (scan of my copy)|
The book includes a prologue - and opens with “Another galaxy, another time...” rather than the now famous “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away ...” - and even though Palpatine is mentioned (he wouldn’t appear in the films until The Empire Strikes Back), he is the "latest in a succession of weak-willed Emperors whose power has been curtailed by scheming bureaucrats".
Scenes on Tatooine between Luke and his friends Biggs Darklighter, Camie and Fixer at the Tosche Station are included and work well, giving Luke and Biggs’ later conversation before the Battle Of Yavin a sense of poignancy. Jabba The Hutt also appears - the sequence was filmed with Declan Mulholland as the intergalatic gangster (and later used as the basis for the poor CGI effect in the Special Edition) - but Foster doesn’t specify if Jabba is human or not, describing him as “a great mobile tub of muscle and suet topped by a shaggy scarred skull”.
There is also this wonderful exchange.
[Ben says]“I understand you’re quite a good pilot yourself. Piloting and navigation aren’t hereditary, but a number of the things that can combine to make a good small-ship pilot are. Those you may have inherited. Still, even a duck has to be taught to swim.”
“What’s a duck?” Luke asked curiously.
Foster completed the novel in six weeks, handing it to his editors in May 1976. He had several meetings with Lucas and Lippincott over the summer, discussing story changes and other details, before handing in his final draft which Lucas reviewed and agreed.
Published in November 1976, Foster wasn't credited on the book as per his contract. "It was George's idea," he said later, "I was merely expanding upon it. Not having my name on the cover didn't bother me in the least. It would be akin to a contractor demanding to have his name on a Frank Lloyd Wright house.”
|Sphere paperback, 1978|
As it turned out, of course, Star Wars was a huge success and The Empire Strikes Back followed in 1980. Del Ray published Foster’s novel, now called Splinter Of The Mind’s Eye, in hardback (on 1st March 1978) and paperback (on 1st April 1978) and it was published in paperback in the UK by Sphere on 27th April 1978. It effectively takes place between the two films (becoming the first entry in the Star Wars Extended Universe) and the lineage between Luke and Leia clearly hadn’t been established, since it features romantic tension between the pair.
Foster was asked to write further adventures but he refused, though he continued to write sci-fi novelisations - including The Black Hole, Outland, Krull, The Thing, Aliens and The Last Starfighter. He returned to the Star Wars universe in 2001 with the prequel novel The Approaching Storm and also wrote the novelisation for The Force Awakens in 2015.
Foster kept his involvement with the novel secret until the news was broken in Dale Pollock's biography of George Lucas, Skywalking. "I had a contract where I couldn't say I was the author and had to lie to a lot of people about it,” Foster said in 1986. After Skywalking, “it seemed foolish (not to mention impossible) to continue denying involvement. My agents requested and received a release allowing me to admit my participation.” For his part, George Lucas was always open about the fact Foster ghost-wrote the novel and later gave him full credit.
|first edition Ballantine paperback, art by Ralph McQuarrie|
|Ralph McQuarrie concept sketches (from starwars.com)|
|art by John Berkey|
Alan Dean Foster, who was born on 18th November 1946, continues to write.
Ralph McQuarrie (13th June 1929 - 3rd March 2012) contributed production art to many films. He died of complications of Parkinson's disease and Lucas said of him, “His genial contribution, in the form of unequalled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, ‘do it like this’.”
John Berkey (13th August 1932 – 29th April 2008) was known for his space and science fiction themed work. He died of heart failure.
Skywalking, by Dale Pollock
Alan Dean Foster interview with SFF World
Alan Dean Foster and the Adventures of Luke Skywalker, by Andrew Liptak
Starwars.com - the Del Ray covers
John Berkey details at Kitbashed
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, which was released in the US on 25th May though it didn't hit the UK until 29th January 1978 (following a 27th December release in London). I was lucky enough to see it in early 1978 and it remains my favourite film to this day.
To mark the anniversary, I'll be running a year-long blog thread about the film with new entries posted on the first Monday of each month.
May The Force Be With You!
Find all the entries in the thread here
Find all the entries in the thread here