One of the most engaging ways to experience the unexplored corners of the "Star Wars" universe is diving into the vibrant collection of short stories in the three-book "From a Certain Point of View" anthology series from Random House Worlds.
These entertaining entries, written by an international assembly of writers, target tales revolving around some of the overlooked or smaller supporting heroes, villains, aliens, droids and monsters in the original "Star Wars Trilogy."
The debut anthology edition, "From a Certain Point of View: Star Wars" was released in 2017 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of that triumphant film, followed by "From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back" in 2020 for that iconic movie's 40th anniversary as well.
The third entry in this stimulating "Star Wars" series, "From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi," arrives today (Aug. 29). The 592-page hardback honors this year's 40th anniversary of the final chapter of that classic space opera trilogy.
There are 40 new sci-fi tales in this latest volume, including pieces illuminating the mind of Emperor Palpatine, the backstory of the Rancor handler, the life and times of the Sarlacc, a retelling of a clandestine Mon Mothma mission, Wicket the Ewok's relaxing forest moon day, and stormtrooper TK-423's Death Star 2 private journal thoughts.
Space.com is happy to share an exclusive excerpt for this new volume, from Emma Mieko Candon's story "When Fire Marked The Sky," starring fan favorite Wedge Antilles. Here it is:
On the eve before the attack on the second Death Star, Wedge Antilles feels every bit the weight and pressure of leadership and duty. Determined not to let the moment overtake him, Wedge vows to spend one last evening among his friends and comrades.
The Tydirium winked into the black while Wedge could see it. He hadn’t planned it that way. He was in Home One’s main fighter hangar conferring with Red Squadron’s head mechanic, and there, over the woman’s shoulder, was the stretch of space between Home One and the medical frigate where the stolen Imperial shuttle hovered, the size of his thumbnail. He must have stared, because the mechanic trailed off and turned. By the time she did, there was only absence.
“Something on your mind, Commander?” she asked.
“Something, yeah.” Wedge rubbed his eyes. A hundred somethings vied for his attention behind them, as they had ever since the briefing where he found himself staring down the schematics of a dead and vengeful thing: a jagged, spherical mass of congealing metal lengths.
It made a sick sort of sense to see the Death Star rise from its grave. The sheer enormity of its first iteration had made it seem like a dark, immutable rule of the galaxy itself. It certainly hadn’t seemed like it should just disappear because one pilot made a once-in-a-lifetime shot. Of course it wasn’t really gone. Of course it had returned to collect on its debts. Of course the resurrection of that grim silhouette made Wedge feel like a ghost himself. Some nights he found himself staring at the ceiling of his bunk, thinking that he couldn’t really be there. He couldn’t have survived the fight over Yavin. Not when nearly everyone he ate, drank, and flew beside was dead. It was plain inconceivable.
Yet even now, four years and dozens of hair-raising, stomach-turning, teeth-clenching dogfights on, here Wedge was, perfectly and inexplicably alive. Though as he watched the majority of the survivors of that one unthinkable trench run disappear into a future he couldn’t see, he found himself feeling acutely small and unlikely.
The mechanic cleared her throat. He’d left her staring at him, and her mouth twitched down.
Wedge knuckled his brow. “Right, the exhaust issue — were you looking for new hoses? Any Incom model should have parts you can work with, right? Darpen knows where to find a couple of scrapped T-47s. We could have them here in time for the mission.”
The mechanic nodded, but she had a look that Wedge associated with irritated medics, the one that said: You’re going to fall over the second I turn around, and it’s not going to be my fault. He didn’t miss when, later that day, she pulled Wes Janson aside for a private chat in the mess. He was thus unsurprised when Janson leaned over the table to put another sweet Mon Cal sea-lime on his tray. Wedge took an extra seaweed roll from his own tray and deposited it on Janson’s.
“I hear someone needs a nap,” said Janson around a mouthful of roll.
“Already on the schedule.”
“Might need another.”
Wedge segmented the lime, frowning. “How was Zyrka Tuhn’s simulation this afternoon? They correct for that leftward bias?”
“Sure did. Said they owe it to your kind critique. Or maybe some of that precious Antilles luck rubbed off on them.”
Wedge winced. “Don’t you start.”
“Just reporting what I hear, sir. Wait till I tell you about the squadron who made a batch of good luck charms out of your toenail clippings.” Janson’s grin faltered as Wedge flicked a seed onto his tray. “But if it’s starting to bug you . . .”
Wedge waved him off. “If they want to call me lucky, then I’m lucky.”
Better “lucky” than “just that good.” Wedge knew the worth of his skills, his experience, his instincts. He was, at this point, a veteran by any reckoning. But none of that explained why he was alive. Plenty of smarter, braver, and more gifted pilots were long dead. If he was still breathing, then yes, he was lucky. But you couldn’t trust luck. You could only ever hope it would carry you where you were needed.
“You don’t look like you feel particularly fortunate,” said Janson.
“Do you?” What Wedge felt was that he’d spent too long lingering over a meal. He set to scarfing down the rest while he ran through a mental checklist for the next rotation. “Have the rookies do another round in the simulator rigs. Tell them I’ll meet them there at fifteen hundred hours to review—after the formation briefing with the frigate bridge crews.”
“Funny how none of that sounds like a nap.”
“Really? You’ve been to formation briefings.”
Wedge refused to make a face when Janson tweaked his nose. It was harder when the look on Janson’s face held a shadow of genuine concern. “Careful, buddy. You keep this up and they’re gonna get someone to drug you.
No one drugged Wedge until he drugged himself. Twenty hours before the jump to Endor, he was reviewing yet more formations with Shara Bey by the simulator rigs when Janson strolled by, telling Sila Kott, “Come on, it’ll be a show. I’m going to lose so badly, your grandkids will be telling their grandkids about the day your lieutenant thought he’d learn sabacc from General Calrissian.”
Shara Bey raised a brow and Wedge pressed a palm to his forehead. He had a habitual twitch related to the aforementioned general. It derived from a deeply ingrained memory of General Syndulla regaling a frigate mess hall with various tales of Lando “Thinks He’s So Slick” Calrissian’s early attempts to con her old crew.
“Your lieutenant really wanted you to hear what he’s doing tonight,” Bey noted as her eyes returned to her datapad.
“He’s under the impression that I need a break,” said Wedge.
“Does he know Calrissian stresses you out?”
“Oh, it’s a threat.” Wedge straightened and tucked his datapad under his arm. “Which is why he knows it’s going to work.”
“So you are going.” Bey’s studiously neutral tone was betrayed by the hint of a smirk.
“I’m going to go pour salt in his drinks all night, if that’s what you’re asking.”
But Janson wasn’t wrong. Wedge knew he was stressed. The Rebellion was less than a day away from yet another dance with total annihilation. Sure, it wasn’t the first time they’d stood on that bleak precipice, and sure, Wedge had beaten these particular odds once before. But his gut told him that luck of that magnitude didn’t favor you twice. So, he was stressed. No one in their right mind was anything but—unless they’d already dived into the sea of “stressed” and found themselves on the distant shores of “oh, to hell with it.”
Wedge was on the wrong side of that sea. He needed to cross it, one way or another, or he might as well strap a ticking time bomb into his cockpit seat for all the good he’d do his squadron. A round of sabacc would loosen him up. And anyway, someone needed to keep an eye on Janson while he made eyes at Calrissian.
“Pure strategy,” Janson assured Wedge as they walked into Home One’s atrium. “If you want a guy off his game, shower him with distractions. The general craves attention.”
“I suppose you’d know what that’s like.”
“Exactly. Now watch the master at work.”
Wedge watched said master play a much better sabacc game than his earlier claims suggested he would have. He was so impressed he entirely forgot to grab the salt.
By the time Wedge remembered he was supposed to have his revenge, he dismissed the thought out of hand. He and Janson were making a round of the central atrium, noting which pilots had turned up to watch the show, which were still hanging around, and whether any of them looked like they needed a kind ear or a visit to the medical bay for a sedative. His eye caught on Calrissian, who was lingering over a bottle at their table with Zyrka Tuhn. Wedge left Janson with Sila Kott and Keyser Salm — deep in their own debate about who’d played the better round of sabacc — and made his way back, trying not to look too much like he was hovering.
As Wedge closed in, he heard Calrissian say, “I swear it. Go wild. Any design at all. You draw it, I commission it, I wear it proudly when they give me my next medal. A victory cape for the ages. Ah, Commander Antilles!” Calrissian waved Wedge closer. “You didn’t tell me your new recruit had such an eye for style. Sorely needed, in this day and age. Zyrka, why don’t you draw a matching cloak for your commander? At least one Death Star, I think. Marked with a red X — an X-wing silhouette! Too gauche? No, no such thing. Have you seen the Empire? We need all the color we can get.”
Against his better judgment, Wedge snorted. Tuhn hid their blush behind a glass but didn’t seem upset by the attention. Wedge would have left it at a brief check-in and a “see you at oh five hundred” if Calrissian hadn’t nudged his elbow.
“Join me for one last drink, Commander — something nice and rejuvenating for the road.”
“If you mean water, that’s complimentary, sir.”
Reprinted from "Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi." © 2023 by Lucasfilm Ltd. Published by Random House Worlds, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
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Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.