I have to eat my words from last class because I’m genuinely enjoying Heir to the Empire. Although my knowledge of Star Wars canon falls within the poor to fair range, the narrative is surprisingly easy to follow thanks, largely, to the notes (in 20th anniversary edition). The author annotations are striking because their function seriously puts pressure on the “para” of this paratext because they so significantly inform the tone, diegesis, provenance, authorship, and interpretation of the narrative. (With a ecopy of Heir, toggling between the text and the annotations is easy, which perhaps contributes to how central they are to my reading—a factor not unworthy of discussion.)
Most striking about the annotations is their chatty and even jocular tone. Many of the annotations exhibit an almost tangential talkiness: Zahn’s surprise that the name “Thrawn” is difficult to pronounce for German readers (ch. 13 n. 3); his recurrent adulation of Han: “Han Solo: master of tact. You gotta love him” (ch. 8 n. 5); his philosophizing about human behavior or attributes of good leadership; his editor’s hokey jokes about Zahn’s incomplete Physics PhD (ch. 12 n. 5) and praise for the “high-art” of his cliffhangers like: “They’ve got him, too” (ch. 12 n. 6). The effect of these annotations aren’t tangential at all: they make the narrative more fun by engaging the reader conversationally, which is arguably necessary for the project’s success since the novel must live up to the more sensory-engaging medium of the Star Wars films.
Even the more diegetically-oriented annotations are geared toward maintaining fidelity to the films and the canon more broadly. Zahn repeatedly justifies or explains his authorial choices, addresses cross-canon inconsistencies, and even describes his numerous failed pitches to Lucasfilm. Although the extent to which Zahn takes his justifications is, in my view, extreme, I get the vague sense that Zahn is only doing what’s expected per Star Wars canon dictums. At once, the notes demonstrate the authorial heterogeneity of Star Wars texts—everyone from the movie makers to fans at conventions—as well as the disciplining influences of Lucasfilm and the fanbase.