Patricia A. Jackson
Author: The Black Sands of Socorro and 10 short stories for the Star Wars Adventure Journals
Interview: January 2021
Diehard fans who are fans of the 90’s Expanded Universe will probably know the characters Drake Poulsen and Adalric Cessius Brandl, who appeared in several stories published in the Star Wars Adventure Journals. The author responsible for their creation is Patricia A. Jackson, who -besides no less than 10 short stories- also wrote the Black Sands of Socorro supplement to West End Games’ Star Wars Roleplaying game.
I’d like to start at the very beginning: what got you into writing and how did your career take off?
I was seven years old when my mother stood in line in 1977 to see a movie called Star Wars. I was so in love with the characters, the place, and the story that I went right home and wrote my very first novel. It was about a young girl, saving the galaxy with her magical horses. I made up my mind that one day, I, too, would get to play and write my own stories in this universe.
Your stories were published in West End Games’ Adventure Journals. How did you get in contact with them and have them use your stories?
I was a die-hard gamer in the early nineties, playing competitively in Dungeons and Dragons. At one time, I was ranked among the top 100 players in the world! I met Pete Schweighofer, the editor of the Star Wars Adventure Journal at MarsCon in Williamsburg, VA. I got to play Star Wars: the Roleplaying game for the first time. I was so enthralled by the experience, I wrote a story about it and sent it to him. He loved it, but because elements of the story had been previously published, it could not be used. Peter asked me to write something else, and I did. Five days later, I was signing my first professional writing contract, bringing to fruition the dream of my 7-year old self.
I was wondering where you got your inspiration for the stories and if you used the various RPG books from WEG?
As a Black woman, I grew up with a genre where the heroes never looked like me. So I decided to create a world where my ethnic culture could be expanded on and enriched. That world was Socorro, which depicted the struggle of the indigenous people who were just trying to eke out a living without interference. The story is an old one. Corellian colonists came to claim the planet, but were themselves claimed and became part of the culture. Socorro is the backdrop for most of my smuggler stories or is carried with the Socorran characters when they venture offworld. I used the RPG resources extensively in my writing and when I could not find a good point of reference, I created my own. Another crazy idea came from the question: What if a tragic actor was actually a Dark Jedi? What would that look like? What would the repercussions be for them? Could the Force be used to influence an audience. That idea gave birth to Adalric Cessius Brandl and his tale The Final Exit.
You mentioned you actually played West End Games’ Star Wars RPG.
Yes! And I miss it soooo much! I facilitate a roleplaying club for students at my high school, and I enjoy introducing the D6-version of the game to new generations of players. Recently, I had a former student contact me for information on character sheets and source material, so the legacy lives on. I even had the chance to play a game with best-selling author Timothy Zahn who took delight in tormenting my Wookiee character. Tim was playing a character dressed like Boba Fett, but turned out to be Grand Admiral Thrawn in disguise. Player reaction was instant, appropriate, and Han Solo-approved. We dropped our thermal detonators and ran!
You created the characters Drake Paulsen and Aldaric Cessius Brandl. What do these characters mean to you? And is there a bit of yourself in them?
There is a sliver of every author’s soul living in their characters. Adalric is my dark side, an aspect of my personality that regrets its own cruelty, but knows that it must comply with the darkness or face dire consequences. Drake represents a wild innocence that I possessed in my youth. I have always been a pleaser and a rule follower, occasionally to my detriment. The Little Prince of Socorro allowed me to live on the razor’s edge with a blaster in my hand while maintaining a code of honor and loyalty. I recently had the chance to write about Drake again for a contest on Wattpad. The story was called Gambler’s Choice and won the grand champion slot. Another story titled Bid Against the Thunder was long-listed for the Online Novella Contest. I was so happy to be writing in the Star Wars universe again!
Imagine your characters on the big screen. Which actors should play them?
The late, great Vincent Price would have played a fantastic Adalric Brandl, but I think Sir Ian McKellen could pull it off. As for Drake, Jordan Calloway of Black Lightning would be an awesome embodiment of my favorite Socorran smuggler!
What is your own personal favorite of the Star Wars stories you wrote?
My favorite story will forever be The Final Exit. I did not write the story; the story forced me to bring it into existence. One day, the fledgling writers, foundlings like myself, who did not have a true publishing pedigree were told by West End Games that we were not permitted to write about the canon, its characters, Jedi, or anything to do with the Force. The edict came out of nowhere, handed down by LucasFilm. I could have cared less! I was totally into my smuggler culture. That’s when Adalric Brandl came knocking on my creative door with demands. I knew the rules and tried to comply, but the character would not go away, so I wrote the story and sent it. The editor, Pete Schweighofer called to admonish me, telling me I was being naughty… I agreed, but he really liked the story and sent it off to Lucasfilm to see what they would say.
Five days later, the story was approved for publication with a caveat. I could write about whatever I wanted to… I took my approving nod in stride and went right back to Socorro and my smugglers. There is a vacuum in the Star Wars literature where some really talented writers are often overlooked despite the brilliance of their work. The Final Exit taught me to always keep my eyes on the prize and push the boundaries.
Everyone remembers the first time they saw a Star Wars movie. So I’m curious which one you saw first, when, and what you thought of it.
After seeing Episode IV in the theaters for the first time in 1977, I begged my mother to let me go see it again, which was unheard of in our household, but she allowed it. I was an only child… the only Black kid in the neighborhood and one of a handful in my school. I really related to Luke, a good, old country kid, living in the middle of nowhere, like me; wanting to be something more than he was, like me; hoping an adventure would whisk him away. While I liked Luke, I fell in love with Han Solo because I wanted to have that same confident bravado and swagger that would hide my insecurities and assure the world I knew who I was, when I clearly didn’t.
In 2014 ago Disney declared the Expanded Universe was no longer canon. It became ‘Legends’. What do you think of this, seeing almost all of your Star Wars work suddenly become non-canon?
When people ask me about timelines, I tell them to keep their timelines to themselves. I do not think of Star Wars in terms of a periodic table. I have never prescribed a time to any of my stories. Other people have because they have a peculiar need to do so. I tell stories about people, not events, people who are caught up in difficult situations who have to find a way to uplift themselves and others. The minute I mention Darth Vader, someone wants to throw a mile marker up. I’m a storyteller, not a Time Lord.
Despite being non-canon and the fact several publications with your stories are out of print, there’s still a diehard group of Expanded Universe fans who see those stories are the definitive Star Wars timeline. Are you aware of this and how do you feel about it.
I am moderately aware of a diehard fan base. Every once and a while, I get an email from a fan who liked my stories and it reminds of those wonderful days. I enjoy perusing the fan databases for info, tracking down details for fanfiction, and occasionally running across my own stories. I recently wrote a fanfic for a contest where I needed some resource material. It led me back to my own sourcebook Black Sands of Socorro. I had a good laugh and then a beer to celebrate old times and my very active imagination.
How do you look back at your Star Wars contribution? And why did you never get to write a Star Wars novel?
I can only hope that I have left a positive legacy in the Star Wars universe. My purpose was to tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people, particularly people of color. When the Death Star blew up, someone was having their first baby. Someone else was burying their spouse of 50 years. It’s one of the reasons I never wrote a novel. I’m not interested in the canon characters. Never have been. I just recently wrote a story for a contest where I had to cross Star Wars with another fandom. I chose Supernatural. Han and Luke are in the ‘family’ business of hunting monsters, and they’ve captured Kylo Ren to perform an exorcism on him. Only they discover the demon within him is actually Darth Vader. The story was hilarious and won the contest, marking the first time I ever used the canon characters. I also do not have the publishing pedigree necessary to win a coveted invitation to write a Star Wars novel. However, my debut novel Forging a Nightmare is set for publication in November 2021. Maybe, just maybe… a feisty, headstrong infernal warhorse will take me on a ride and lead me to a galaxy far, far away.