In the Thrawn trilogy, he justified or filled in almost all of the original three movies' Technobabble, Loose Ends, Hand Waves, and Plot Holes, resulting in a consistent universe with coherent rules. Notably, the Thrawn trilogy also named Coruscant. Years later, he wrote the Hand of Thrawn duology, renowned for fixing a lot of odd details that had appeared in subsequent novels, pairing up Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker, and having the New Republic finally sign a peace treaty with the Imperial Remnant.
Zahn has written a number of short stories, two of them in collaboration with Michael Stackpole of the X-Wing Series. The two authors seem to get along pretty well, and while Zahn freely involves characters introduced by other authors, he uses Stackpole's characters more specifically—all of the Rogues have at least one line, though most of them aren't directly named. He and Stackpole also wrote The Reenlistment of Baron Fel but, agonizingly, this hasn't been published.
And when the fandom takes an author and promotes him as the example of how to fix messes made by other authors, you know he's good.
In the final years of the Legends canon, a lot of his characters were killed off unceremoniously. Reputedly, he knows that although he created them he doesn't have a say in how they die, but he's still a bit annoyed that none of the authors doing so bothered contacting him. However, with Disney's acquisition of the Star Wars franchise and the development of Star Wars Rebels, his most iconic character Grand Admiral Thrawn has been inducted into the "official" canon, with Zahn himself not only approving of his character's true-to-form interpretation but also writing a new Thrawn novel released in April 2017. One wonders how many more of Timothy Zahn's concepts will be introduced alongside Thrawn, but it would be safe to leave that with those who indulge in Wild Mass Guessing.
No relation to actor and comedian Steve Zahn.
Works with a page on this wiki:
- The Thrawn Trilogy
- Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand (co-written with Michael Stackpole)
- Star Wars Tales (the short story "Mara Jade: A Night on the Town"; covered in the above page)
- Tales from the Mos Eisley Cantina (the short story "Hammertong: The Tale of the 'Tonnika Sisters'")
- Tales from Jabba's Palace (the short story "Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade")
- Hand of Thrawn
- Outbound Flight (also covers Survivor's Quest)
- Choices of One
- Blackcollar trilogy
- The Cobra Trilogy
- The Conquerors Trilogy
- Dragonback series
- The Icarus Hunt
- Quadrail Series
- StarCraft: Evolution
Other works include:
- A Coming of Age
- Deadman Switch
- The Green and the Grey
- Manta's Gift
- A Chronicle of the Sibyl's War series
He's also written several short stories set in the Honor Harrington setting, and is co-author, with David Weber, of the Manticore Ascendant prequel trilogy about the early days of the Royal Manticoran Navy. The introductory short story, "A Call to Arms", was published in the Beginnings anthology.
Tropes in Timothy Zahn's work (only include if they appear in at least two of his works, or if the work doesn't have its own page):
- Author Usurpation: Timothy Zahn has written many other novels that have been critically and financially successful, yet fans only associate him with The Thrawn Trilogy. Even his other Star Wars books, including the sequel duology Hand of Thrawn, aren't cared about nearly as much.
- Badass Family: The Moreaus in The Cobra Trilogy, the Cavanaghs in The Conquerors Trilogy, the Skywalker/Solos in his Star Wars books.
- The Chessmaster: Often both sides have them, leading to a Gambit Pileup.
- Les Collaborateurs and La Résistance: Most prominent in Blackcollar, but also appear in Cobra and others.
- Death World: Specifically, jungle planets where the death factor stems from the ecosystem consisting of Everything Trying to Kill You. Examples include Granparra in Conquerors, Caelian in Cobra and to a lesser extent Myrkrnote in his Star Wars books.
- Foreshadowing: Both within a book and between books in a series. Rereading a Zahn book will inevitably provoke a series of "oh, right!"s from the reader as the significance of apparently meaningless points and enigmatic hints is now known.
- God Does Not Own This World: In the Star Wars franchise, this is to be expected. He's expressed in the past that he doesn't like it when other authors kill off his characters, especially when they don't tell him about it, such as with Mara Jade and Pellaeon in Legacy of the Force, but at DragonCon 2018, he has stated that he finds it interesting to see what other authors do with his characters, such as Mara Jade, comparing it to watching your daughter go on her first date.
- Heart Is an Awesome Power: How an apparently inconsequential ability can prove vital in the right place at the right time. Particularly prominent in his short stories.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Zahn is known for defining rules for how Fantastic Science elements work, and then coming up with clever ways to get around those rules. He did this for the Star Wars Legends as well as featuring it in his own universes.
- Mind Control: A major part of many of Zahn's works: C'baoth, the Modhri, Angelmass, the Blackcollar books, telepathic animals, etc. The forms of it shown range from beneficent to nightmarish, but Zahn's characters tend to be very suspicious of any kind of mental influence, even in its most benign forms.
- Precursors: Often Neglectful Precursors.
- Punctuation Shaker / The Unpronounceable: His alien names. However, they also generally work on internally consistent rules specific to a species (which, in the case of the Star Wars Legends, pretty much every other author fails to get right when writing about a Zahn-created species).
- Punny Name: A trademark.
- The Reveal, Red Herring, Tomato in the Mirror, and similar (no examples to avoid spoilers)
- Rousseau Was Right: There are some truly evil characters in his works, but many more examples of characters who consider themselves bad people but turn out to be anything but.
- Sealed Badass in a Can: Usually in the form of some technology or military materiel that could be used by either side to tip the balance in a war, and they race to be the first to get it.
- Shout-Out: In particular allusions to mythology and those in the form of puns.
- Skewed Priorities: In the short story "Jade Solitaire", published in Tales from the New Republic, Mara is blackmailed by a powerful Corrupt Corporate Executive into infiltrating a pirate base, rescuing his kidnapped daughter and retrieving the stolen luxury yacht she was in - and if she can only save one, to make sure she saves the ship, not the girl.
- Super Soldier: In particular deconstructing the concept and examining the Blessed with Suck aspects. The Cobras from Cobra suffer from premature aging and death due to their implanted augments. The Blackcollars from Blackcollar are old men who are obligated to be warriors until they die. And the Copperheads from Conquerors can suffer burnout, addiction, or even catatonia if they use their mind-machine link too much.
- What Could Have Been:
- Thrawn was supposed to be a bit unhinged due to the stress of being a victim of xenophobia, hence his name (which essentially means "mentally unstable").
- He would like to write about Ezra and Thrawn post-Rebels, but Dave Filoni has yet to give him any details about it and doesnt plan on addressing it until after The Rise of Skywalker.
- He would like to write about Agent Kallus adjusting to life as a rebel. Time will tell if this will happen.
- Xenofiction and Humans Through Alien Eyes: Fully half of the Conquerors trilogy is written from the perspective of the Zirzzh, as well as a sentient computer, and various other works (especially his Star Wars books) include the perspectives of other species.