Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Is the Star Wars Expanded Universe Really Being Destroyed? by Mike Fatum

Much has been made recently of a recent twitter conversation between fans and Leland Chee, one half of Lucasfilm's new Story Group. Leland, along with Pablo Hidalgo and probably many others, are now in charge of the central story of Star Wars. So what has this changed, and what does it mean for the future of the beloved-by-some-loathed-by-others Expanded Universe of Star Wars lore? Hit the jump to find out more.

The Expanded Universe is a controversial topic amongst Star Wars fans. The litany of books, comics, audio dramas and cartoons that have expanded the stories and characters of the films are a hot topic of discussion every time they are brought up. For some, like myself, who grew up on these stories, they're just as integral a part of the Star Wars universe as the films, and characters like Mara Jade, Corran Horn and Kyle Katarn are just as important to us as Luke, Han and Leia. To others, the books are a hot mess, a swirling vortex of continuity that only the most die-hard fans can make sense of. Either way, for years they were the only way of getting new Star Wars stories. As such, they were treated as the truth about what happened to all of the major characters before and after the films.

That all changed, of course, the moment Episode 7 was announced.

Put yourself in the shoes of writers Michael Arndt (sadly, now off the project) and Lawrence Kashdan. So much material has been written about what happened after Return of the Jedi concluded. The timeline of the EU (I took great pleasure in finding a website apparently made in Angelfire) includes every moment of these characters' lives from literally the day after the destruction of the Second Death Star. A good metaphor for writing this new trilogy would be to say that Kashdan is now standing in a field of land mines, and even the smallest step he takes will destroy something. It's time to create a brand new timeline.

But here's the main problem with that, and why fans are panicking over Chee's announcement. The new timeline, the timeline of the films, will be undisputably the official timeline. The entire expanded universe we grew up with will likely be erased, destroyed forever in official canon. The adventures of Luke, Mara, Han and Leia's kids will have never happened.

I'm one of the biggest fans of the Expanded Universe you'll ever find. But this, honestly, is a good thing.

Any attempt made by Lucasfilm to adhere to the Expanded Universe will go up in flames. There's too much continuity, too many opportunities for a poor writer to make a misstep and accidentally put a character on the wrong planet at the wrong time. The only way through the landmine is to blow it all up, because otherwise we couldn't possibly get any interesting stories about these films.

Now, Leland's announcement is not an announcement that they're removing the EU. Quite the opposite, it's an announcement that there is now a team in place working to reconcile all of the myriad of Star Wars stories from over the years into one timeline that makes sense. But make no mistake, some of our favorite stories and characters will get trampled over in the course of taking this new direction.

The key, then, is to borrow a page from the writers of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Oh wait! Sorry, I meant the writers of J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek reboot. (...They're the same guys? Must've been having an "on" day.) When faced with landmine of telling the story of Kirk and Spock's past, they just washed their hands of it and said "alternate universe." And while the new films will become the official timeline, putting the Expanded Universe in it's a strategy that will finally free it from the endless fan conflict. The reason most fans who hate the EU hate it is because they don't believe it's what would happen to their favorite characters. So let's take that pressure away from them.

Then the rest of us can enjoy the stories of the characters we grew up with for years to come.


  1. So they're "New 52-ing" the universe?

    1. Yes. Luke Skywalker will now be a giant tool, Han and Leia are broken up, and Leia exclusively wears skimpy bikinis.

  2. So to Disney I say screw you. Don't expect me to buy anything star wars related as long as you own it. I'll remember star wars as it was before you came and destroyed my memories.