Rebecca Roanhorse's Star Wars writing gig began with a tweet
This segment originally aired Jan.12, 2020.
It all began with a tweet.
"It started with me sort of joking around, pleading on social media for a Native author to write a Star Wars story," said Rebecca Roanhorse, the Black and Ohkay Owingeh author of Trail of Lightning and Storm of Locusts, explaining how she was hired to write the Star Wars novel Resistance Reborn.
That tweet caught the attention of fans and other Star Wars authors, and that was all it took.
"The word just got passed up the chain and the editors reached out to my agent and she's like, 'Hey you wanna write a Star Wars?' and I was like, 'Absolutely!'"
The book picks up the story after The Last Jedi. The Resistance has been decimated at the battle of Crait and is left to pick up the pieces.
"They have to find their way back from devastation. They've lost all their leadership. They've lost their entire fleet and they're really adrift. So this story is how they do that," Roanhorse explained.
She said Resistance Reborn focuses on Poe Dameron, a commander in the Resistance's Starfighter Corps.
"[Poe] led a mutiny, and he got a lot of people killed on his watch and it was his fault. So I wanted him to really struggle with that guilt," she said.
The magic reborn
Roanhorse said she was not a "super crazy Star Wars fan," but admitted she used to steal her brother's action figures when she was a kid and saw all the movies in the theatres.
"It was just always a part of my life, but what writing this novel did was let me rediscover a lot of the magic of Star Wars that I had not really embraced for years."
To say she was under a lot of pressure is an understatement. Roanhorse only had four months to write the novel, but she said she wanted to get it right.
"It was important to me to get Leia right, and to get Poe right, and to give people something of what they love," she said.
She even got feedback from J.J. Abrams, who directed Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
"J.J. Abrams did give me notes on my outline, one [thing] in particular that I wanted to do, and he's like, 'No you can't do that,'" she laughed.
Themes of colonialism
Roanhorse said there are elements of Indigenous influence in the franchise, from Leia's Hopi-inspired double bun hairstyle and use of a Navajo greeting, to the Ewoks being based on the Miwok people.
But Roanhorse said one of her goals was to include Indigenous people in the story by giving one of her characters a Pueblo name.
"One of the things I like to do in my work is, not so much as talk back to colonialism, as Indigenize my work, so that the Indigenous story sort of stands on its own. So that we don't have to be in constant conversation with the past, we can look toward the future," she said.
"Even if it's in a galaxy far, far away, you can look for ways to Indigenize that too."