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What was the motivation for creating the Yuuzhan Vong?

I'm not asking about their in-universe origin. I'm interested in the editorial decisions that led up to their creation and use as villains in the Star Wars universe.

What storytelling need existed that only the Yuuzhan Vong could fill in the universe?

The wiki article doesn't explain much in the "behind the scenes" section: http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Yuuzhan_Vong

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    George Lucas wanted me to stop wasting my time reading Star Wars books. He succeeded. – cjm Feb 21 '12 at 6:20
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    One of the editors didn't like the "Organic food" movement? :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Feb 21 '12 at 6:20
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    oh, I didn't realize it was that simple! LOL – SteveED Feb 21 '12 at 6:24
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    I remember reading somewhere that they wanted to create a serious threat (as opposed to those that came before) that would really influence the galaxy and leave marks even after defeated. While the idea was long overdue, I think they pretty much messed up the execution (link to my own opinion on the series). – Raphael Feb 21 '12 at 13:56
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Your best bet for an answer is an interview that was in the back of some copies of The Unifying Force and possibly some copies of the Vector Prime ebook: Star Wars: New Jedi Order Round-Robin Interview, featuring:

  • Shelly Shapiro, Editorial Director, Del Rey Books
  • Sue Rostoni, Managing Editor, Lucasfilm
  • Lucy Wilson, Director of Publishing, Lucasfilm
  • James Luceno, Author

This interview usually comes with the Yuuzhan Vong entry from the New Jedi Order Bible that the authors used to keep continuity straight. I did not see much behind-the-scenes details in there, but it may be worth checking out.

Here are some excerpts that hopefully answer your questions. Note that there are spoilers below for the New Jedi Order series.

On the origin of the Yuuzhan Vong:

DR: I've heard that the name Yuuzhan Vong came from a restaurant menu during an early editorial powwow. Any truth to that?

LW: You bet. Yuuzhan Vong, as well as many other brilliant ideas over the course of history, came from food.

SS: Lucy and some of us Del Rey people were eating lunch at a wonderful French-Thai restaurant called Vong here in New York City. I suggested using Vong for the alien invaders. But we wanted something more, and perusing the menu, I came across their list of teas, which included a mention of the "Yunan region." We tossed around ideas and came up with Yunan Vong. We added an extra n, making it Yunnan Vong. But a week or so later, we decided that we wanted it to sound more alien and less Asian, so we changed it first to Yuzzan Vong, then to Yuzhan Vong, and finally settled on Yuuzhan Vong.

On the role of George Lucas:

DR: How much of a role did George Lucas play in shaping the series?

LW: George Lucas has been involved in all of the spin-off Star Wars publishing, but only on big concepts or plot points. The initial five-year NJO plot outline and early thoughts on who might die were sent to him in the form of a Q&A memo and subsequently discussed by phone.

SS: I would characterize his role as limited but important. He's the one who said the alien invaders could not be dark side Force-users, that we couldn't kill


Luke


, that we had to kill


Anakin


instead of


Jacen


(we had originally planned it the other way around). Other than that, he occasionally answered some basic questions for us, but that was rare. Mostly he leaves the books to his licensing people, trusting them to get it right.

On force immunity:

DR: I'm still not sure I understand how the Vong can be immune to the Force.

SS: Me, neither. They're not exactly "immune" to the Force, though-they just can't be "sensed" through the Force.

SR: This is all explained in The Unifying Force, never fear!

JL: Our original idea was to give the Yuuzhan Vong dark side powers and test the Jedi in a way we imagined the Republic- era Jedi had been tested. When that proved unworkable, we began to wrestle with the idea of making the Vong immune to the Force, which of course led to countless discussions about midichlorians and the possibility that the Force was peculiar to the Star Wars galaxy. All this was admittedly muddled, and almost every writer had a slightly different take on the notion of "immunity." The basic idea was that the Vong could not be perceived through the Force and therefore were not susceptible to certain actions by the Jedi: very much in the same way that Toydarians, Hutts, and other species are immune to Force suggestion, and Tim Zahn's ysalamiri are capable of repulsing the Force. At the conclusion of the NJO . . . but perhaps I should leave that discovery to readers!

On bio-tech:

DR: Who came up with the idea of a biologically based technology and a culture with a fanatical aversion to machine technology and a value system and sadomasochistic theology based on conquest, violence, sacrifice, and pain?

SS: Bob Salvatore invented the biotech concept, which we liked. We built on that to come up with the fanatical aversion to machine technology. We kind of liked the flip-flopping of the way it had been in the original movies: there, the high tech was mostly in the hands of the bad guys, while the good guys wore homespun and seemed much more low tech. So here it's the reverse: the good guys are high tech, and the bad guys seem more low tech, although they're really just "different tech." The sadomasochistic theology was not planned, and while we tried to pull back on it, not stress it so much (we really wanted it only to be the extra-fanatical Domain Shai-of which Shedao Shai was a part), it took on a life of its own.

JL: the time of the first story conference, I had just returned from an extended trip in Mexico and Guatemala, and during the brainstorming sessions, Del Rey editor Steve Saffel wondered aloud if the Aztecs or Maya might serve as models for the Vong. We began to work with this by imagining a kind of organic-tech Aztec society with a pantheon of gods, rituals of automutilation, a rigid caste system, and a hatred of machines. We weren't out to reinvent the wheel. We were simply trying to come up with villains who had the potential to become as interesting as Palpatine and Darth Vader. Our original conception of the Yuuzhan Vong expanded in all directions after Bob Salvatore, working from scant notes, gave them an actual look and created examples of their wondrous biotech. Mike Stackpole was largely responsible for the system of ranks, and we borrowed heavily from Central American mythology in creating the pantheon of gods. Kathy Tyers and Greg Keyes contributed immensely to this process, further defining the warrior and shaper castes and in enlarging the Yuuzhan Vong menagerie of creatures. Yuuzhan Vong words and phrases accrued as the series progressed.

  • Some of this needs to be wrapped as spoiler – Chad Feb 21 '12 at 18:28
  • I get the gist from this text, thanks. – SteveED Feb 22 '12 at 1:36
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    The TL;DR answer is "They needed an Anti-Jedi villain." Also, given that Lucas completely disregarded the entire Expanded Universe in his future works, I really don't understand why he went to so much trouble to control major plot points. – Omegacron Aug 14 '15 at 18:31

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