RIP Dave Wolverton, Who Gave Us the Enduring Star Wars Legacy of The Courtship of Princess Leia

RIP Dave Wolverton, Who Gave Us the Enduring Star Wars Legacy of The Courtship of Princess Leia
The original cover for The Courtship of Princess Leia, by legendary poster artist Drew Struzan. (Image: Drew Struzan/Del Rey)

John David Wolverton, the author behind the Runelords fantasy saga, Ravenspell, and more — as well as the author of one of the most famous Star Wars expanded universe stories around — has passed away at the age of 64.

Wolverton’s passing was announced on social media last Friday by his son. The author, who kept his name for his sci-fi work, also penned a litany of fantasy novels and series under the name David Farland, and wrote several time for the Star Wars saga in the wake of his own series like the aforementioned Runelords, Serpent Catch, and more. As well as short stories included in famous anthologies such as Tales From Jabba’s Palace and Tales of the Bounty Hunters, Wolverton wrote entries in the Star Wars Missions and Star Wars Episode 1 Adventures roleplaying game/novel series. But he will forever be remembered for his sole adult readers entry into the Expanded Universe novel line: The Courtship of Princess Leia.

First published in 1994 — and actually Wolverton’s debut work for the Star Wars saga — Courtship told what was, at the time, the definitive answer to a question fans had had since the end of Return of the Jedi: how did Leia Organa and Han Solo become husband and wife, as they were already depicted in the EU’s vision of Star Wars’ future? The answer… was admittedly very convoluted. Courtship is perhaps beloved and reviled in equal measure for its labyrinthine plot to eventually get Han and Leia married, involving Han briefly owning a planet, a very silly prince named Isolder from a very powerful planet called Hapes, and C-3PO singing a song about Han’s romantic prowess (“Han Solo, What a man! Solo. He’s every princess’s dream!”). Nostalgically, it’s perhaps one of the best examples of the Expanded Universe at its highest and lowest, more than a little silly, more than a little loving, and somehow in spite of all that, one of the most enduringly influential pieces of Star Wars fiction around.

Courtship did more than just show us the wild road to Organa-Solo matrimonial mayhem, it introduced concepts to the EU that became so deep-rooted that they’ve survived into the current iteration of Star Wars canon today. The Hapes cluster became an important star system in the old EU as part of the New Republic’s expansion in the wake of Return of the Jedi, and introduced important future characters like the Imperial Warlord Zsinj and Isolder’s daughter Tenel Ka Djo, who grew up to become a prominent member of the New Jedi Order. But perhaps most enduring of all is that planet that Han happened to own: Dathomir. A version of the world — home to, as it was in Courtship, a tribal society of Force-wielding mystics known as the Nightsisters — was elevated into primary Star Wars continuity through its introduction to The Clone Wars animated series, which in turn remained part of Star Wars canon upon Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm.

The concepts Wolverton created for the Witches of Dathomir, from their sinister lens onto the powers of the Force and its dark side, to even the concept of them as warriors riding into battle atop Rancors, helped shape and influence the Dathomir we would see in Clone Wars and beyond, as it became vital to the stories of characters like Asajj Ventress and the returned Darth Maul. It’s a legacy that persists to this day, with the Witches being namechecked in the most recent episode of The Book of Boba Fett, which hinted at the possibility of its titular ex-Bounty Hunter entertaining the idea of learning how to ride a Rancor himself.

Wolverton’s work may have proved controversial over the long-and-winding history of Star Wars tie-in fiction, but its continued and celebrated influence, in spite of all that, is undeniable. Our thoughts are with his family in this unfortunate time.

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