How Star Wars’ High Republic Is Exploring New Interpretations of the Force

How Star Wars’ High Republic Is Exploring New Interpretations of the Force
Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

As Star Wars fans, we love to evoke Han Solo and rigorously cry “that’s not how it works!!!” whenever something weird happens with the Force. But that’s kind of been what the Star Wars franchise — in movies, books, comics, and more — has always been fascinated by. The High Republic, it seems, will be no different.

Speaking today at New York Comic Con’s Star Wars: The High Republic panel, writers of the myriad novels and comic series that will form this new era of Star Wars storytelling — including Claudia Grey, Charles Soule, Justina Ireland, Daniel José Older, and Cavan Scott — discussed how this new period allows writers to really explore the depths of the Force in ways that are pretty rare in the current iteration of Star Wars canon.

Set roughly 200 years before its fall at the climax of Revenge of the Sith, the High Republic era sees its titular democracy at the expansionist apex of its reach, pushing colonists further beyond the Core Worlds of the galaxy far, far away into its unexplored fringes. But most crucially it also sees the Jedi Order in its own age of enlightenment, a period where, operating hand-in-hand with the Republic as vanguards of this age of exploration, they are likewise at the height of their influence.

This is going to be reflected in The High Republic aesthetically of course, as the Jedi position themselves as wandering knights of the realm — their lightsabers are not mere tools of defence, but reflections of a Jedi’s grace and mastery of martial arts, their shining robes a walking reminder of their status as beacons of hope and justice. But we will also see it in their approach to, and usage of, the Force.

“We really have tried to lean into the idea that every Jedi has their own connection to the Force, and that allows them to experience it in their own way, which has been really good for storytelling,” Soule explained when asked how these exemplary Jedi wield the mystical connection that unites Star Wars’ galaxy.

“It’s not like every Jedi has their own special [sense] — it is and it isn’t — but the idea is that the Force is very small and personal, but it’s also very large and immense, and it encompasses all things,” the writer continued. “It just emerged naturally that the Jedi that we meet, that we get close to, would all have their own way of interacting with and understanding the Force.”

How those different interpretations of the Force will be reflected in The High Republic came in a fascinating thought experiment, as the panel’s host, Polygon comics editor Susana Polo, asked each writer how the Jedi in their stories “see” the Force. For some, like lauded master Avar Kriss, it’s seen as an eternal song, with each being she encounters playing their own instrument, capable of assonance or dissonance with the wider harmony. Wookiee Knight and soft boy Burryaga Agaburry, meanwhile, envisions himself as a leaf on a great tree, itself rooted in a massive world, a small part of a natural whole connected together.

It’s fascinating that all these interpretations come through as perspectives, a certain point of view on the the Force as a lens, rather than something like “oh, this Jedi uses it go super fast, this one uses it to push things harder or root them in place.” None of the interpretations of the Force were in a combative sense, but as a tool of insight for these Jedi to find their place in a much larger world. It makes sense that, with the Jedi at the height of their power spiritually, the way they wield the Force is not primarily as a tool to manipulate the world and people around them, but to seek stronger connections instead.

Star Wars: The High Republic, having been delayed from a winter 2020 launch, is set to kick off with Charles Soule’s novel Light of the Jedi and Justina Ireland’s middle-grade novel A Test of Courage on January 5, 2021 — but will actually start with a new piece of short fiction penned by Soule for the December 2020 issue of Star Wars Insider, the first official tie-in serialized fiction the magazine has published in since the Blade Squadron short stories concluded in 2017.

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