Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser and Creative Freedom’s Dance with Self-Promotion

Every so often, a Star Wars book release gets some unwanted attention. Disney/Penguin Random House recently released the synopsis for the upcoming novel The Princess and the Scoundrel by Beth Revis (Rebel Rising), and parts of the blurb have caused many eyes to roll:

“But happily ever after doesn’t come easily. As soon as Han and Leia depart their idyllic ceremony on Endor for their honeymoon, they find themselves on the grandest and most glamorous stage of all: the Halcyon, a luxury vessel on a very public journey to the most wondrous worlds in the galaxy. Their marriage, and the peace and prosperity it represents, is a lightning rod for everyone in the galaxy—including Imperial remnants still clinging to power.

Facing their most desperate hour, the soldiers of the Empire have dispersed across the galaxy, retrenching on isolated worlds vulnerable to their influence. As the Halcyon travels from world to world, one thing becomes abundantly clear: The war is not over. But as danger draws closer, Han and Leia find that they fight their best battles not alone but as husband and wife.”

Penguin Random House release

There are exciting story beats within the synopsis, like Leia coming to terms with her father being Darth Vader and what that means. Leia dealing with her bloodline was explored in legends (as well as Han and Leia’s courtship which took more time) and a little in canon with Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, but now it is time for the canon/official version of these moments. But instead of excitement that we get to read more Skywalker family dynamics after The Return of the Jedi, the news surrounding this release is about the notable self-promotion of the Halcyon Galactic Starcruiser. And yes, it takes up a lot of space in the synopsis and probably will take up a lot of space in the actual novel. This is part of the value of Disney synergy. The same promotional beats happened when Galaxy’s Edge was opening with comics and novels (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge A Crash of Fate by Zoraida Córdova is still the best example of writing around a theme park experience).

A model of the Halcyon is shown at D23 in 2019 | credit Disney Parks

Still, the promotion of the Halcyon in publishing has been unusually aggressive and particularly noticeable given some of the PR missteps (I highlighted some in my Year in Star Wars Merchandising post). And some of the best contemporary authors in Science Fiction and Fantasy have had to write to these promotions with varied results.

As the first guests start to visit the new hotel at Disney World, here are the many ways Disney has chosen to promote and position the Halcyon within canon:

The First Appearance and Mention: The High Republic Adventures #11

An appearance of a Purgill-class | credit IDW Publishing

This is a bit of a cheat as it is not the Halcyon, but the same class of ship (MPO-1400 Purgill). Short and sweet as the Purgill-class appears on the last panel as a striking overview on Corellia. Tying the Halcyon to the planet makes sense as it is the birthplace of ship construction throughout the timeline. 

The Novels: Mission to Disaster and Midnight Horizon

In Midnight Horizon, Jedi Padawan Ram mentions that the legendary engineer, Shug Drabor, oversees the construction of these star cruisers. Shug is another character being showcased with the Galactic Starcruiser and will likely feature in the experience in some form. Having characters tied to the construction or who work on the Halcyon is a workaround of the ship having a presence in a story without readers having to read similar lines about ship specs. 

The Mission to Disaster mentions are a bit more on the nose as the ship is involved in a rescue mission, then later admired by the science-focused Avon Starros. Every specification is pointed out by someone in this novel and within three consecutive chapters, which could be too much, but it just manages to pull it off (partly because the reason for it being there makes sense). 

Concept art for the engineer of the Purgill-class of cruisers, Shug Drabor | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

The Halcyon also appears in the children’s book, The Battle for Starlight, as leading a rescue mission as the head of the flock of other ships. Disney would be wise to keep marketing toward children minimal as a parent buying a Star Wars children’s book for their kids does not need the off-putting experience of having their kid bother them about a $5K hotel stay. 

With The Princess and the Scoundrel, this will be a more delicate dance as I imagine a sizeable portion of the novel will take place on the Halcyon. And, because it will be closer to the timeline of the actual location in Galaxy’s Edge, I suspect more onboard elements will be a part of the story. 

How all this will work without sounding too salesy is a challenge for Revis. It already feels out of character for Han and Leia to be on a pleasure cruiser during these galactic events so the reasoning has to be believable. But Rebel Rising is one of the best Star Wars YA novels (right up there with Lost Stars), and this will only be Revis’s second Star Wars novel, so I have no reason to think she is not up for the challenge. 

The Headliner: Marvel Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser: Halcyon Legacy

The five-issue comic series will cover various periods in Star Wars (Issues 1-3) | credit Marvel Comics

Halcyon Legacy # 1 sets the tone for what we can expect for future issues, reminiscent of the early years of Disney’s acquisition of Marvel when brands like The Florida Department of Citrus could get their own Avenger (no joke). Or Lexus could present an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D storyline. 

These exist in the world | credit Marvel Comics, Florida Department of Citrus, and Lexus.

To Disney and Marvel’s credit, that extreme brand tie-in was scaled back significantly. However, there are shades of these old habits within this Galactic Starcruiser marketing campaign. Here, the Halcyon is treated like a theme park with very little consideration of what makes sense in canon (Why would a non-Force-sensitive child have access to lightsaber training?) for the sake of winking at readers about the real-life hotel.  

Galaxy’s Edge content tie-ins seem to take a similar narrative structure of having past and present storylines. A group of characters in present canon telling/listening to a story taking place in past canon. It works for stories like Tales from Vader’s Castle that are seasonal pushes because telling scary stories has become a cultural tradition tied to Halloween. However, it seems to be a go-to narrative structure for Galaxy’s Edge stories. Both VR Tales from Galaxy’s Edge games and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge comic run involved nested stories told by a singular character. In the VR games, it’s Seezelslak (the Azumel bartender), and in the comic, it is Dok-Ondar. Only the first issue of the Halcyon Legacy comic is out, but the storyteller for this appears to be the droid, D3-O9, which makes sense because it can have an endless database of stories to throw at readers. For guests staying at the Halcyon, D3-09 will be in each room as an AI with tailored interactions.

The narrative similarities could be from a singular strategic brief across Lucasfilm publishing on the guidelines for storytelling around Galaxy’s Edge attractions. Michael Siglain, Lucasfilm Publishing creative director, has been the lead in discussing the Halcyon within publishing. 

This works if your main objective is to drive key features to a potential guest, and long-term potential guests would be people who invest in reading and buying Star Wars novels and comics. 

A true miracle, no casualties from a Nihil attack on the Halcyon | credit Marvel Comics

But it does make things creatively limiting because nothing serious can ever happen to the Halcyon. After all, it is a location at a theme park, and Disney would never have the Halcyon get blown up (even if it would get rebuilt). That makes a comic centered around it very low stakes. So, is anyone other than a critic/reviewer going to purchase a $5 USD ad for a pricey hotel?

This comic could have been a park exclusive to guests at Disney World or exclusives to guests at the Galactic Starcruiser. At least then it would have more value, even as an ad for the hotel. 

Unlike Galaxy’s Edge and its overall location of Black Spire, the Galactic Starcruiser is more difficult to naturally fit into a story. Batuu and Black Spire are locations on the edge of the Unknown Regions, which is fertile ground for storytelling for multiple canon timelines. You have to be more creative to insert a cruise spaceship into the plot of your story so it is no surprise that some have been more organic than others. 

But this will continue for the foreseeable future. Per Siglain, “Be on the lookout for the Halcyon to make a big appearance in other publishing storytelling in 2022.”

Ok…as long as Lucasfilm can avoid awkward copy and not take you out of a canon story and into a Disney brochure.