The Cubicle at the End of the Universe: Shelly Shapiro


I believe I can say with all honesty that I, Shelly Shapiro,  alone of all the Del Rey/Spectra editors, actually DO work from the cubicle at the end of the universe.

Okay, it’s not exactly a cubicle.  It’s a large room with a big desk, a bank of four windows overlooking a bay—yes, an actual finger of the Atlantic Ocean—and a ferret cage with an actual ferret inside it (when he isn’t running around my feet trying to steal my slippers).  And while it’s not REALLY the end of the universe, it might as well be, as far as New York is concerned: I’m on the coast of Maine, about an hour and a half from Canada.  Which makes me better placed than the others to escape when our government implodes…though that’s another subject for another time (but not here).

In my cubicle, I have shelves and shelves of Star Wars books, since that’s most of what my job entails these days.  I have a computer, and I even have a broadband internet connection, which, though not as lightning fast as what I was used to back in civilization, is sufficient for work and for playing World of Warcraft.  And it is here that I spend much of each day, reading manuscripts, editing manuscripts, juggling schedules, and planning the future of Star Wars publishing.  Except in the winter, when sometimes I settle down by the wood stove instead.

I admit it’s hard to tear me away from my bit of paradise here at the end of the universe.  It takes a lot.  Like the promise of a trip to Lucasfilm in San Francisco, where I go a few times a year to brainstorm with my colleagues there.  And the far-less-frequent but beloved trips to Ireland to visit Anne McCaffrey—working with Anne and her son Todd on the ongoing Dragonriders of Pern saga is my yearly snack in between meals of Star Wars.  But otherwise, I am happy to look out at the bay and just do the work that needs to be done to make the books that make so many people so happy.

When I was much younger, I tried to explain to my non-sf-reading scientist father why what I did for a living had value: that even though I wasn’t editing Pulitzer Prize or National Book Awards winners, I was doing a true service by keeping thousands of people entertained.  I believed that was true—and I still believe it.  And the fact that I can now do it from my own personal paradise near the end of the universe makes it all even better.

But I really wish I’d thought to take the day off today, because just today I’d really rather be exploring the new Azeroth of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm…

  • Audition.Asia

    I like all star wars movies series very much

  • James Gomez

    WoW addiction is a slippery slope! 😉 Although, in all honesty even though I don’t play the game anymore, I’d still rather be playing it than working, but then again I don’t have anywhere near as awesome a job as you!! Anyway, Azeroth will be waiting for you when the Fate of the Jedi series is all finished… Us Star Wars fans while massively greatful are still hard task masters, eh?! 😉 Keep up the fine work Shelly!

  • Deirde O’Neal

    World of Warcraft.

    Well, THAT explains why the Star Wars expanded universe has devolved into such a steaming, twisted pile of mess. And why storytelling & plot, character arcs, themes and emotional resonance have been abandoned in favor of gratuitous violence, episodic narratives that go nowhere, and pointless villains ripped off from other SF and game franchises. And why the only thing that is remotely “Star Wars” about the books is the name on the cover, nothing more.

    But thanks for the explanation. The overwhelming drekitude of the books makes so much sense now.

  • Thanks for all the work you do to bring Star Wars to the printed page. You have brought me countless hours of escapist joy

  • Shelly Shapiro

    I am very happy to be able to bring so many readers “countless hours of escapist joy.” 🙂

  • Courtney

    Shelly, I am so glad to see an article from you. I truly believe you have the best job in the universe. Any suggestions on how to get started in the editing field? I have 2 college degrees (neither deal with editing), but did not until recently decide which type of path I would like to follow. Any help or suggestions is greatly appreciated! I can even send you a resume if you need an assistant! 🙂 Thank you for all of your excellent work.

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