Timothy Zahn is a Science Fiction, Fantasy and Space Opera author, best known for writing The Thrawn Trilogy, one of the founding contributions to the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Among fans, he's often considered to be among the best, if not the best, of Star Wars authors. There are a number of factors involved in that, including his respect for Imperial characters, his ability to write immensely complicated and detailed plots, the fact that he reads and uses the other books in the EU, and his habit of foreshadowing things that will be revisited years later in different books.
In the Thrawn trilogy, he justified or filled in almost all of the original three movies' Techno Babble, Loose Ends, Scotch Tape, and Plot Holes, resulting in a consistent universe with coherent rules. Years after the Thrawn trilogy, 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.
Recently a lot of his characters have been getting 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.
A prolific author, he's also written numerous books outside of Star Wars, including the Dragonback series, The Conquerors Trilogy, The Cobra Trilogy (sequel series has just[when?] started back up), the Quadrail Series, the Blackcollar trilogy and several short stories set in the Honorverse.
(only include if they appear in at least two of his works):
- Badass Family: The Moreaus in Cobra, the Cavanaghs in Conquerors, the Skywalker/Solos in his Star Wars books.
- The Chessmaster: Often both sides have them, leading to a Gambit Pileup.
- Death World, and 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 Myrkr and Wayland in his Star Wars books.
- Fantastic Racism
- 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.
- 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.
- La Résistance and Les Collaborateurs: Most prominent in Blackcollar, but also appear in Cobra and others.
- Magic A Is Magic A: Defining rules for how Fantastic Science elements work, and then coming up with clever ways to get around those rules. Did this for the Star Wars Expanded Universe as well as featuring in his own universes.
- Magnificent Bastard: Grand Admiral Thrawn in his Star Wars books, Damon Lathe in Blackcollar. Tends to overlap with Military Maverick.
- Mind Rape / You Will Be Assimilated: Losing control of your mind to another entity is often portrayed as the most terrible fate someone can suffer. (But not And I Must Scream--in Zahn's books generally there isn't enough of you left to scream, or you're unaware there's any reason you should be screaming).
- 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 Expanded Universe, pretty much every other author fails to get right when writing about a Zahn-created species).
- 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.
- Space Opera
- Super Soldier: In particular deconstructing the concept and examining the Blessed with Suck aspects. The Cobras from Cobra, the Blackcollars from Blackcollar, the Copperheads from Conquerors.
- Xenofiction and Humans Through Alien Eyes