Tuesday, December 3, 2013
K. W. Jeter on Boba Fett: Part 2
On work-for-hire projects for multimedia franchises, an author can usually use any of the existing characters from the TV shows or movies, or those invented by previous authors in any of the preceding books. While that gave K. W. Jeter numerous characters to choose from, the one I found most interesting in his Boba Fett novels was new to me.
Kud'ar Mub'at is an arachnoid Assembler who lives in a huge web constructed in space. Assemblers cannot run all the activities that occur in their webs, or process the vast amounts of information that they utilize without help. So they fashion nodes, subsidiary assemblers with less intelligence and awareness than themselves, and design them to carry out specific tasks. As nodes adapt to each new situation, they grow in sentience and power, until eventually they can challenge their master for command of the web. So the webmaster must kill his nodes after awhile, or risk his own destruction.
In the novels, Kud'ar Mub'at seems heartless and cruel. Remember, he usurped his former master. Yet he grows in affection for Balancesheet, one of his nodes, and takes pride in its accomplishments. He continually delays its destruction, because like a parent, he likes a being that he brought into life, one that shows so much potential. That made Kud'ar Mub'at a sympathetic character for me, one I initially despised, but later came to worry about. I think you'll also agree that he's a character vastly more complicated than anyone in the six Star Wars movies.*
At this year's World Fantasy Convention in Brighton, when I told K. W. Jeter that I found the character of Kud'ar Mub'at fascinating, and he was one of the highlights of the trilogy, his eyes lit up like binary suns in a simultaneous supernova. "Yes, that was my creation," he said.
Surprised that the Star Wars folks would allow him to create something of that scope--a being that collects and disseminates all kinds of information, and who serves as a clearing house for all kinds of payments, including those between the Empire and military contractors--I asked him if he had faced any difficulties passing any of his ideas by Lucasfilm. "No," he said, and went on to describe how easy it had been to work with them. Unlike other authors who have faced all kinds of difficulties in pressing their own ideas into an existing franchise, George Lucas and company eagerly embraced all of Jeter's suggested additions to the Star Wars universe.
As enjoyable as I found the Boba Fett novels, I'm well aware that an author doesn't get too attached to work-for-hire projects. In his heart, his most fervent desire will always be to create his own universes, and populate them with characters completely of his own making. So it is that I've picked up Infernal Devices, one of the Steampunk novels K. W. Jeter is best known for. After all, his research for those books, and the joy that process brought him, were what intrigued me about him in the first place. So I look forward to reading that book one of these days: not right away, but hopefully soon.
Hey, there's no rush, right? It's not as if anyone's pressing a steam-powered gun against my forehead!
*Not that I'm knocking any of George Lucas' original characters. At least, not when he's holding a blaster against my head. The esteemed creator of Star Wars may have blown my mind in the past, but….
Related Internet Links
K. W. Jeter's Blog