So today sees the big announcement that we’ve all been waiting for since January. Well, maybe not *all* of us, but I’ve been pretty keen to see what’s going to happen to the Star Wars expanded universe. You may or may not know, but following the acquisition of the Star Wars IP by Disney last year, and the subsequent announcement of more films on the horizon, a ‘story group’ was set up to decide which stories were part of the official Star Wars timeline, and which would be left out.
After four months, the announcement has been made! Bottom line, the timeline established by the EU has essentially been discarded, but the elements that have gone into making it such a rich universe now form a sort of pantry that new authors can go into to create new recipes. In a manner of speaking.
You can read all about it here. There’s also a really nice youtube video!
I have to say, I don’t really know how I feel about this. Reading through a lot of the comments posted on facebook about this, it seems a lot of people were expecting it to happen, and I must say I agree with the sentiment. I mean, short of essentially filming some of the stories that have been set post-Return of the Jedi, there’s pretty much nowhere they could set new films in the already-established timeline. Given a new company has just acquired the property, I suppose it’s natural they’d want to de-restrict the land to tell whatever stories they want.
The existing stuff isn’t entirely going away, but will remain in print with the “Legends” banner across the cover. So essentially there are now two timelines, which to be honest isn’t such a great stretch for me personally. For a while, I’ve maintained “my own” timeline, where I prefer to just ignore certain stories as if they aren’t part of the canon. So that part’s not going to upset me too much. Though the upcoming prospect that major plot points are going to be completely thrown out the window is really unsatisfying. The biggest one, I suppose, is the thought that Luke Skywalker will no longer be married to Mara Jade. Perhaps the most interesting character to come out of the entire EU (discuss in the comments!), it would be a real shame to see that whole thing forgotten. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that prospect is making me feel, like a lot of others in comments, that I have a whole bunch of books that I’ve wasted so much money on, if they’re no longer part of the universe.
Back when the Story Group was announced in January, my initial thoughts were that we would see certain milestones in the fiction being kept, while others would be weeded out as “untrue”. As I’ve said, I’ve more-or-less been doing this myself for a while now, with my own “fanon” of stories that I consider to be “correct”. The prospect of losing some of my “fanon” to the axe of the SG was a bit dismaying, if I’m honest, as I love this universe, and the last thing I want to do is exist in a vacuum where my “fanon” doesn’t correspond with that of the “canon”. So wiping the slate clean does remove the potential mess.
The EU has got some really awesome stories, though, and it’s going to be really quite sad to think that we’ll be seeing these stories consigned to oblivion. I suppose that puts the pressure onto Disney now to come up with something that will be good enough to replace that. The gauntlets are down, I suppose! For a lot of fans, Tim Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy is a seminal work in the universe – forgetting the fact that it single-handedly resurrected the franchise in its darkest hour during the early 90s, and thus arguably renewed interest enough to pave the way for the prequels, it’s an awesome story with a slew of compelling characters, including the aforementioned Mara Jade. To say that this is now not what Star Wars will be is, to me, a massive disservice to the work of the authors and artists who kept the universe going through the years.
It raises another question for me, though – was this really necessary? This has all come about because Disney wants to shoot films with Luke, Han and Leia – but why? Why didn’t they just take something completely new and make it their own? Unfortunately, the prequel trilogy has established a need for Star Wars films to overshadow each other, to share characters, and have all these crazy links forced in there. Personally, I’d prefer to see something completely new and fresh, but that’s just me…
I hope that we get some really good stuff in the coming years, don’t get me wrong, but there is so much in the EU that I’ve grown up with and love, it’ll take some pretty awesome storytelling to convince me this is now Star Wars… but that’s just me…