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Old 04-30-2014, 11:32 PM   #1
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Star Wars Expanded Universe Discarded

On April 25th, 2014, Star Wars’ official website released a statement titled “The Legendary Star Wars Expanded Universe Turns a New Page,” which announced that Star Wars Episode VII and the subsequent new films would not necessarily adhere to the rules and timelines as laid out in the Expanded Universe, essentially downgrading its stature to a non-canonical alternate universe. The same day, the official Star Wars YouTube channel uploaded a video titled “The Star Wars Expanded Universe: Past, Present, and Future,” which features members of the Lucas Film staff discussing the meaning and importance of the Expanded Universe. In less than one week, the video gained over 570,000 views.
You can watch the official Star Wars channel's YouTube letter to fans here. Timothy Zahn, author of one of the most popular trilogies in the Expanded Universe (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, and The Last Command), makes an appearance slightly before the two-minute mark. The video mostly does two things:
  1. shows a bunch of staff members trying to persuade you, the skeptical fan, just how big of Star Wars EU fans they are
  2. suggests that Disney's primary goal is to calibrate the Star Wars EU, not outright discard it
Supporting #2, they write in the video description:
Now, with Lucasfilm's Story Group, the EU will be unified like never before. Across the new films, TV animation, comics, novels, and games, the Star Wars narrative will be entirely consistent and cohesive. "I think the idea of aligning the content," says Kiri Hart, head of development, "is actually a really fantastic and exciting opportunity that no other fictional universe could really even support."
The problem I have with #2 is pretty simple: for the most part, the authors didn't step on one another's toes. At least they didn't once Shadows of the Empire and Zahn's own trilogy came out. One author (Zahn) would lay dibs to what happens five years after Episode VI. Another author would lay dibs to what happens four years after it. Another, three. Another, six. Another, twenty. Disney seems to base a lot of their reasoning on the largely unofficial works that were released in the 1970s and '80s, but growing up I always understood it to be that those works were not approved by Lucas himself to be considered "Star Wars canon" and that Shadows of the Empire was the first fan novel that Lucas officially approved of. He never went the full mile and said, "This is canon." He reserved the right, as he should have, to discard it down the road if he decided he didn't like it, that something better had come along to explain the gap between Episodes V and VI. But Shadows was the first book that Lucas said, "You have my permission to call yourself a Star Wars book. Now go forth and make millions. " So I've always understood it, anyway. Perhaps I've understood things incorrectly all these years. Anyway, back to the point: the point is that by the mid-1990s, nobody was writing anything which conflicted with anybody else. One author laid dibs to the story of Princess Leia's marriage and that was it: no one else ever wrote an alternate wedding tale for her. One author (Ann C. Crispin) laid dibs to telling the backstory of Han Solo that the films didn't show: and once she'd done that, no one went and wrote their own backstory for Han. In fact, many if not most authors would (with permission) incorporate elements from their predecessors' novels into their own. This was especially true with Zahn: Jacen and Jaina Solo, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, and Talon Karrde would show up in dozens of other books. Some would even show up in official LucasFilm merchandise, like the LucasArts-published video games Star Wars: Rebellion and Star Wars Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith. So it's very strange to me that Disney would be trying to argue, "We don't want to scrap anything! We just want to ... organize things a bit better, that's all " when things post-Zahn are already perfectly well organized. No, I don't really believe Disney's claim in #2. I think it's pretty clear that Disney is trying to as politely and delicately as possible make clear their intention to trample the the Star Wars EU canon however they deem necessary.

That stated? I don't have a problem with it. Controversial opinion: the vast majority of the Star Wars EU is crap. Less controversial opinion: I believe that Lucas (and now Disney) as rights holder had (and continues to have) every right to tell these fan authors, "Look: you can write books if you like, but don't get too attached to it. If I/we ever decide to make movies for Episodes VII, VIII, and IX some day, I'm/we're going to have to bulldoze a lot of the infrastructure that you guys might build up." These authors knew what they were getting into back in the 1980s and 1990s. It's just that Lucas sat on the sequels for so long that we've all become accustomed to just accepting the Star Wars EU as a sort of semi-official canon. If Lucas wants to write Grand Admiral Thrawn out of existence, fine. If he wants to write Talon Karrde out of existence, fine. If he wants to rewrite the backstory for Han Solo, fine. I'm not saying that I'll necessarily like what he produces or that I'll like it better than what Zahn, Crispin, and the other EU authors have written. But fine. I believe he has every right to do that and that he should do that if, as an artist himself, he feels like their works are hindering him from telling the story that he wants to tell.
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Old 05-01-2014, 02:49 AM   #2
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Canon is silly anyway. I used to be hindered by a belief in its supremacy, but simply going by "whatever is good is canon" is the best way to approach things.

Mitochlorians is worse than any official SW fanfiction could ever be.
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:19 AM   #3
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Do we know who's doing most of the scriptwriting? Is there a general author, a face or a name we can put behind "Disney?"

I feel personally that it would be extremely dangerous territory to place the movies into the EU. If the movies fit the EU perfectly, Disney loses creative design opportunities, and there is zero tolerance for mistakes or inaccuracies. Star Wars has an extremely rabid fan base that's already upset because Disney's responsible; they won't be able to handle if Jacen's lightsaber is the wrong color, or if two characters are portrayed as having an nonexistent relationship - which is GOING to happen, because it's Disney. That said, Frozen was really good about keeping romance to the sidelines, so you can almost see that as an assurance: only 2 characters had a romantic sideplot/"got together" (pls ignore fanfiction, they really don't know what they're doing when they try pairing together Elsa and the Duke of Weaseltown. Everyone knows Jack Frost/Elsa is the best OTP in fiction), so Star Wars can (and probably will) end up with very little romantic tension.

The route that fits the movies within the EU has problems with casual fans who only know about the movies - no, of course you wouldn't know that X and Y got married, you wouldn't know the story of Luke and Z, you wouldn't know anything about most of the letters of the alphabet. So that's right out.

And you can't trample on the EU canon.

So what ends up being the best way is, "Hey guys? We're really sorry about this, but some of the things y'all accepted as canon simply won't fit in the context of our moviemaking. We'll try our best to make it fit within what y'all have created, but we want to make something original, and we can't do that without stepping on SOMEONE'S toes. So, preemptively sorry, some of y'all are going to have to live with the fact that what you wrote isn't actually canon anymore." And that's what they're doing, so carry on Disney you're doing nothing wrong here.
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Old 05-01-2014, 09:42 AM   #4
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Hardly surprising really. Before Disney took over it's been pretty well established that the EU is very second tier, in a way that Star Trek's isn't quite so much. Also i think it's fair to say that a lot of EU stuff is incredibly poorly conceived and written. If even pseudo Canon stuff like the two Clone Wars series can't agree on things and routinely retcon things, this is to be expected.
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