I have read, in my 31 years, more than 100 Star Wars books. At a conservative estimate I have read 30,000 pages of Star Wars lore, excluding comic books, backs of action figure boxes, and cards. In fact, since I have read many of these books twice, it is likely that my page count would be closer to 50,000. That is a lot of Star Wars. Some of it was even good, maybe a tenth of it was even great.
None of it matters anymore though. You see, Disney has decided that those hundred+ books are not real Star Wars. Instead, real Star Wars will consist only of the movies and whatever TV shows and new books that they decide to publish.
This is not a particularly new thing for a nerdy person like myself to go through. Any long-time reader of comic books has had to deal with Marvel or DC (ok, mainly DC) periodically wiping the slate clean, announcing that the entire creative universe has been rebooted (or retconned) and that new stories are on their way to build a whole new narrative. I get it. But with Star Wars it feels different for some reason.
Part of this may just be my trepidation about the new films themselves. In the Expanded Universe (which is what Lucas decided to call all the books, comic books, and games that weren’t part of his movies) of Star Wars, a whole hell of a lot happened between the end of Return of the Jedi and the 30+ year later timeframe in which The Force Awakens seems to be set. My worry is that, in the new Star Wars universe, very little will have happened. Much like in The Dark Knight Rises I worry that we’ll come back to Star Wars and be told that after the last movie everyone just stopped doing anything cool. Luke will have been a hermit, the Empire and the Rebellion will still be fighting each other, and no one will have to worry about all that intervening time. Finding out that Batman had sat around in his mansion for 8 years without fighting any crime or having any other villains show up was annoying; trying to believe the same thing about 30 years in the Star Wars galaxy would be insufferable.
I’m not saying that everything in the EU was great. A lot of it was really, really bad (like Chewie getting crushed by a moon and Han & Leia’s children regularly getting slaughtered). But there was always stuff happening. The Empire was driven out, the Rebellion became the New Republic, the Empire and the New Republic made peace, the galaxy was invaded by pain-loving aliens, the New Republic fell, Han’s oldest son became a new Sith Lord, some intelligent ants started a war. Again, not all good stuff, but a lot of it was really exciting. Losing characters like Thrawn and Mara Jade (Luke’s wife) is a huge blow against the fun of Star Wars. And being told that so many of the stories that I grew up reading “didn’t happen” is pretty disheartening.
In the absence of a sequel trilogy, the Expanded Universe provided a continuation of the story that so many Star Wars nerds craved. Yes, the books are still around and I’m hoping for some re-print editions under the new “Legends” banner, but being told that they are not the real Star Wars sucks.
This will come as no surprise by this point, but I grew up a pretty nerdy kid and ended up as a very nerdy adult. Star Wars provided a huge component of my reading development, and it also was part of my development as a writer. For a couple of years I was a member of an online writing group that wrote collaborative Star Wars fan fiction. Maybe not the most glamorous of admissions, but hey there’s a book trilogy that raked in millions of dollars and got a movie deal that started out as fan fiction of another sci-fi series. I doubt that what I wrote back then could be called anything like my “best” writing, but I definitely had the most fun writing it. Part of the fun was figuring out how to make those stories fit within the “canon” of the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Oddly enough, with the action Disney took to dismantle the EU, all of those fan-fic stories I wrote are now just as much “real” Star Wars as Timothy Zahn or Michael Stackpole’s novels. I didn’t get paid nearly as much as they did though. When I first heard about the death of the EU I actually tried to brush the rust off of those fan-fic skills and write a new Star Wars story; you’ll be able to find it on the site tomorrow as part of our “Revenge of the Fifth” coverage.
This is not a rant against the Disney take over of Star Wars, or against the new movies. The trailer for The Force Awakens got me pumped despite my continued distrust of JJ Abrams’ directorial style (thank the Maker there was no sign of lens flare in the trailer). I’m also a big fan of The Clone Wars TV show, which Disney has blessed as real Star Wars. I’ll be one of the first people in line for the movie and I’ll certainly be reading some of the new books coming out. This isn’t really a rant against anything; this is just a lament for something that is lost.