You like wars in the stars? What started as a samurai-cowboy-space opera became a cultural identity, and funded effects research that changed movie-making and story-telling forever.
In the original and latest generation of these stories, there’s a character that stands out – the character of the rogue with a soft spot. We emailed with Alex Segura, the author, and we are privileged to share the first chapter of Star Wars: Poe Dameron – Free Fall with you.
I know what you really want is to read the first chapter. But before you scroll down, here’s what the author, Alex Segura, had to tell us:
Knapsack News: Tell us about the journey that led to you writing this book.
Alex Segura: My background thus far as a novelist has been in the crime genre – writing my acclaimed Pete Fernandez Miami Mystery series – but I also work in comics and write them, too. And that’s where I connected with Lucasfilm’s Mike Siglain when we both worked at DC Comics a lifetime ago. Mike and I kept in touch and he reached out around the time I was concluding the Pete books to see if I’d be interested in doing something Star Wars related. I, of course, said yes – without really knowing what he had in mind. When he and editor Jen Heddle mentioned Poe, I knew I’d landed in the right place. Poe, of all the new characters introduced in the new trilogy, was the one that resonated the most to me – so it felt like a really great fit.
KN:Tell us about what makes Poe interesting to you – what was the part of Poe that resonated with you, and how did you explore that?
AS: Poe’s a complex, layered character – and I’m always drawn to people who don’t have the answers right in front of them. Poe feels a weight in terms of his legacy, mainly because of his parents, but he also feels a pull to the stars – to be something else, something different. That was really neat to explore, and to show how these experiences we got to create for the book basically laid the foundation for the character fans met in The Force Awakens – well, that was something else. A true honor.
KN: What do you love about this book? Is there a part you’re secretly most proud of? What is it?
AS: The book is special, to me, because it’s such an important part of Poe’s history – it’s his origin story. In this novel, you discover the formative elements that make him who we recognize, while also serving as a fun, high-stakes crime novel in space. I love the characters – from established ones like Poe, Kes Dameron, and more, to the new ones I got to add that had a major impact on the story. Zorii Bliss was also amazing to write, and it felt like a huge responsibility to not only show Poe’s formative moments, but hers as well, and to peel the curtain back on what made her the mysterious figure we see in THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. And, hey, any book that has some Babu Frik in it is a winner for me.
In terms of pride – I’m proud of how much we were able to fit in! It never feels over-stuffed, at least from my perspective, and we cover a lot of important ground. The Poe we see at the end is very different from the one we meet at the beginning, and that to me is the sign of solid character development.
KN: Tell us about any literary influences that went into this work? Star Wars drew on Samurai and Western movies as an influence, what books influenced you as you wrote about Poe?
AS: Well, I tried my best to do my homework. I’m a fan of Star Wars, of course, but I felt a responsibility to get Poe right and to do right by him and his supporting cast. So I spent a lot of time reading the POE DAMERON comics by Charles Soule, Greg Rucka’s SHATTERED EMPIRE and BEFORE THE AWAKENING, and novels by Delilah S. Dawson, Daniel Jose Older, Rebecca Roanhorse, Timothy Zahn, and lots more. I wanted to make sure I was in the right headspace to work on the book, but I also wanted to figure out where I had space to play with – in terms of Poe and his life. I’m also an avid crime and true crime reader, so I was in the midst of a lot of histories of organized crime, and that definitely played a part in how I crafted the story – which like I said, is more of a gritty noir/heist book in outer space.
KN: How did your work on this book change you?
AS: It taught me a lot about plot and pacing, and I think as writers, we’re always learning and figuring out new ways to hone our craft. I usually write a much looser outline, but because this is a licensed book it requires more intense approvals vs. something that exists wholly in my head. So it was much more collaborative, and I really liked that – and I loved the flexibility and freedom I got to add to the Star Wars mythos – I was so happy to discover that Lucasfilm really pushes you to be additive, and to be creative in the sandbox they give you. It made the whole thing so exciting, and that really helped me shake off the idea that I was “just” a crime writer. It was really liberating to write some fun science fiction and to cut loose in ways I never got to before. Liberating, really.
Star Wars: Poe Dameron – Free Fall (Chapter 1)
The scream erupted from Poe Dameron’s lips as the A-wing veered upward with a long, painful shudder, the old ship barely dodging the trio of Civilian Defense Force vessels careening toward it.
“Not good, Poe, not good,” he muttered to himself as he checked his ship’s display. Four ships total. All armed. All probably angry. All in better shape than his mother’s old bird. Not great odds.
“What else is new?” he asked, a smirk forming on his face.
This was supposed to be fun, he told himself—just a quick jaunt to blow off some steam. But he’d gone farther— higher—than he’d intended, and by the time he noticed, he was in someone else’s crosshairs.
A crackle of sound signaled a message from his pursuers. Poe ignored it. The man’s gruff voice cut through anyway.
“Poe, this is your last warning, son,” said Griffus Pinter, one of his father’s closest friends and a mainstay of the Yavin system’s Defense Force. Poe could visualize the older man’s expression, the scraggly gray beard quivering slightly with each rage-fueled word. “I don’t want to have to shoot you down.”
Poe hesitated for a second, his hand hovering over the ship’s controls. Even at sixteen, Poe was mature enough to know a turning point when he reached one. He could give up, surrender—and maybe skate by. Get another slap on the wrist. He’d face his father’s wrath again, sure, but even those cold shoulders were finite. It would be another incident in a long line of rebellious incidents for Poe since, well, since eight years prior.
Since the darkest day of his young life.
The A-wing turned downward, as if heading toward the moon, the sudden move putting a strain on the old ship—as evidenced by sounds Poe had never heard it make. Griffus sounded equally aghast. The expletives jumping through the comm were almost musical—a collection of words Poe could’ve hardly imagined in his most creative moments.
It had started as a lark. A lark fueled by anger, if Poe was being honest with himself. The argument with his father had hit the same notes as many earlier ones. The slightest suggestion of Poe becoming a pilot—of leaving Yavin 4 and following in the footsteps of his mother, Shara Bey—was met with an immediate rejection. A spark of emotion Poe only saw in his father in moments like that one. The rest of the time, Kes Dameron was sullen, isolated, and distant. This time, harsh words were exchanged. Poe was reminded of his inexperience and youth. Tears. Yelling. Shut doors and a growing canyon between the two Dameron men.
Slipping into the A-wing had been a quick escape. A place to hide and think. The smell and feel of his mother’s ship served as a last sanctuary of her memory. A final place where Poe could commune with a woman who should still be around. Should still be at home when he’d storm in late, waiting with a hot cup of Tarine tea in her work-worn hands, a comforting smile on her face.
“Do we need to talk, Poe?” she’d ask in those imaginary moments, in those scenes that still felt all too real. Hurt all too much.
Before he knew it, though, he had been flipping switches and taking the ship out. In that moment, Poe’s mind had drifted back—to the same cockpit, the same A-wing, eight years before—to his mother, her hand over his, guiding him. They used to take it out from time to time. She wanted Poe to learn, she’d tell Poe’s father, Kes, when he protested. Who better to teach him? The ship had flipped into a barrel roll, their heads bumping into each other as she laughed—that clear, strong laugh. Confident and warm—like everything his mother did. Poe knew, even then, Shara Bey was a hero. Maybe he didn’t know she was a hero to the Rebellion, to the forces that would come together to create the New Republic, but she was a hero to him. A light he was always drawn to, a source he drew strength from.
And she was gone.
His mind was yanked back to the present, Griffus’s static-fueled screaming replaced by a clearer voice. Menacing. Unfamiliar.
The sentence was brief, but its message was very, very clear.
The first two were warning shots. Poe, despite his inexperience when it came to space battles, knew enough. “You tell them what you’re doing, every step,” his mother had said. “If you want the conflict to deescalate, you have to give them every chance to do it for you.”
But that third shot came in strong, knocking the A-wing for a loop. The ship began to spin, and the controls flickered.
“Uh, think we got him—”
“No, dammit, no,” another voice said. “Change course, immediately. We have to retrieve—”
Then the feed went dead. An eerie silence permeated the A-wing’s tight quarters, replacing the clatter. Poe’s skin grew cold as he tried to regain some kind of equilibrium.
The Defense Force officer’s voice had been nervous. Someone had overreached. Fired with the wrong intent. The hiss of air—a compartment breached, something gone awry—filled Poe’s ears as his head slammed back, a loud thunk following a split second after. The spins couldn’t be counted anymore—it was a constant rotation as the ship veered downward, the control display a muted gray.
Poe tried to keep his eyes open. Tried to focus on what he could do. The ship wasn’t dead—couldn’t be. It was his mother’s ship. Had been her faithful partner for more rebel missions than Poe could imagine. Shara Bey of the Rebellion. Hero of the Battle of Endor. Friend to Princess Leia Organa and Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker.
As the pressure increased, as the ship fell apart around him, Poe’s mind drifted to the farm. His eyes rolled back in their sockets, his mind overwhelmed with the vertigo as the shaky A-wing gained speed, propelling into the Yavin moon’s atmosphere. He was going home.
“I’m sorry, Dad,” Poe said, his voice a whisper. “Mom.”