May the Fourth!

May the Fourth

It’s here again, folks!

Star Wars day is always a lot of fun, of course, and I did a special on my love of the saga last year (you can read that here). A sprinkling throughout my blogs, particularly recently, has been more of an apathy towards the recent developments within the franchise, so today I thought I’d ramble about this a bit, and perhaps try to draw together some more of this…let’s see!

Last year, I wrote a blog about the fate of the Star Wars expanded universe, following the announcement that everything that formed a part of the established universe outside of the films and cartoons was no longer considered to be a part of said universe. At the time, I was pretty bummed about this – I made a comment somewhere along the lines of the fact that it was upsetting because this universe has meant so much to me for so long.

Since then, I’ve been thinking more about this and looking at it from another angle, and looking at what we’re set to lose. There is, undeniably, some real chaff in the Star Wars universe, including some really weird stuff that will definitely not be missed. I read a great article on this the other week (which you can read here), that essentially reminded us that the EU really isn’t all that rosy, and could definitely bear to lose quite a lot of stuff. It’s definitely begun to change my own mindset about this in a way that I want to talk about it today.

While I still stand by that blog, I also feel like I’ve probably been a bit of a whiny kid about all of this as well – like I’m having my toys taken off me or somesuch. I’m certainly not along in this way of thinking, as I suppose it comes from being within a geekdom that you will feel passionately about certain things, and when those things are threatened, you will have a reaction. But to look at it from the other perspective, we stand to gain so much from this move that it really ought to be given a chance.

The fundamental flaw with the EU was always that it wasn’t a planned enterprise from the outset. Rather than having a pre-determined plot, stories emerged in the early years surrounding the classic trilogy to cater to the demand for more adventures featuring the movie heroes, while the next film was being made. As such, they often came out in a haphazard fashion, and media almost existed in separate bubbles – the newspaper strip wouldn’t take account of the Marvel comic, which wouldn’t take account of Brian Daley’s novels, etc. When it came time to plot all of this material onto a recognizable timeline, it quickly became very busy in those years surrounding the events of the original trilogy, to the extent that we could account for almost every hour of the Big Three’s lives at this time.

Given how central the classic trilogy is to the majority of Star Wars fans’ enjoyment of, and identification with the franchise as a whole, we’ve continued to see stories being set in this timeframe, most recently the Empire and Rebellion series. This whole area of the timeline has become unbearably chaotic, and I do genuinely feel that it’s time for the reset button to be hit.

I recently read Heir to the Jedi, which I reviewed here. I approached this book with some trepidation, as it was the first of this new canon that I decided to read. However, I absolutely loved it, and can highly recommend it to anyone and everyone with any interest in the movies. Free of the shackles of all those stories from the late 70s, while remaining faithful to the general parameters of the established universe, we get a story that feels new and fresh while still in familiar territory. I’m really optimistic that this book will provide the benchmark for future stories, and that we’re in for a really amazing second chance at this universe now that all fiction produced under the Star Wars banner is co-ordinated with the bigger picture.

I’m going to end this with a list – well, two lists. One, of things that I’m sorry to see go, and one of things that I’m relieved to see the back of. So!

List One: Good riddance:
The Crystal Star. The epitome of all that was weird about Star Wars storytelling in the mid-90s.
– Corran Horn and Kyp Durron. In my opinion, two of the absolute worst pet-characters from the entire universe, I really hope they never really happened.
– The Solo kids. Perhaps a sweeping statement to make, I never really liked the tired plot-point of endless kidnappings when they were infants; the New Jedi Order was largely dulled by their presence, then we had that whole Legacy of the Force junk. If Han and Leia did have kids, I’m hoping we have a better storyline for them this time around.
– The later Luke. Following RotJ, Luke spends an interminable number of years wandering the galaxy with various female companions. We have some great stories, but we also have the quest to find his mother, the Callista fiasco, and who could forget that time he got taken out by the ghost of Exar Kun? While I don’t begrudge Luke setting up a Jedi Academy, and would probably be surprised if he didn’t do something like this, I’m looking forward to seeing hopefully a more purposeful life for him.
Dark Empire. While I fully recognise its importance in the history of Star Wars publishing, I never liked this story. The Emperor returns! Luke turns to the Dark Side! Meh. Glad this never happened, and I hope it stays that way.

List Two: Don’t Leave Me! Come Back!
Cloak of Deception. I’ve mentioned this before, of course, but this novel is so intrinsically important to the prequels, immediately to The Phantom Menace, that it does more harm to those films by removing it. I’d hope they keep Labyrinth of Evil too, but Cloak of Deception is a must for setting-up Episode I.
– Mara Jade. I fully don’t expect to see this one materialize, which is a terrible shame, but I don’t believe we’ll see someone so important as Luke Skywalker’s wife just introduced in the new films as “oh yeah, and this is the wife”. If they’re going to marry him off, I’d expect they’ll re-write that whole history and it’ll be a new character. However, the Mara Jade character is really fascinating, I’d love it for them to be able to keep her alive in some manner.
– We’re getting a Quinlan Vos novel shortly, and the character is “real” insofar as he has made it into the Clone Wars cartoon of course, I really hope his comic appearances (from the Republic storyline, though possibly excepting Infinity’s End) remain “true”. So much awesome!

And there you have it! While I’m no authority on this, I’d get rid of more than I’d keep, even just talking in vague terms. Didn’t expect that…

So let’s look forward to the new content that is coming, and embrace where the franchise may be heading as we inch closer to the new trilogy. Happy Star Wars Day, folks, and May the Force be with you always!


The fate of the EU

Star Wars EU

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.

Star Wars books

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…