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The Purist - Issue 12: How the Star Wars EU was poorly handled

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#1 The Satellite

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Posted 09 November 2015 - 02:07 PM

Ah, Star Wars, a beloved film franchise that also expanded into a hefty and successful line of books, comics, and video games known as the "Expanded Universe." These stories, outsourced to various authors and developers with only a little guidance from George Lucas himself, served as a means to fill in the gaps between movies. They were also used to extend the story beyond Return of the Jedi, as well as cover ancient history preceding even The Phantom Menace. Sure, the stories weren't always great... how about that time Palpatine came back, repeatedly, through cloned bodies? Or Luke's brief stint batting for the dark side? Yeah, they weren't all winners, but there was still a hefty amount of story and expansion added to our beloved universe; there was the bad, certainly, but a lot of it was decent, and there were some genuinely great stories here, many of which served as reference material for more "official" properties, such as the CGI Clone Wars series.
So naturally, the best idea when Disney bought Lucasfilm was to toss out all of it. That's right, over thirty years of work—beginning with the very first novel, Splinter of the Mind's Eye, dating all the way back to 1978—was just dumped. Novels, comics, video games... Needless to say, many fans weren't happy about this.


Now let's be fair about this, Disney planned to make new films and wished to use their own original stories moving forward, instead of adapting Expanded Universe stories. That's all well and good to ignore stories post-Return of the Jedi, as they would conflict with the new stories, but all of it? Even the ones that wouldn't be getting in the way? Why invalidate so much work when they could have kept the majority of it and based a new storyline off of what came before?


That's almost what seemed to be the case, when a "story group" was appointed to determine what was and wasn't canon. At least, that's how some fans, myself included, interpreted it: They would sort through the materials and decide what could remain as canon, and what would get tossed out. So what remained? Absolutely nothing. As it turned out, the entire Expanded Universe would be rebooted, with this "story group" simply assuring that all stories—whether books, comics, or video games—fit well into this new canon universe, and every single other story fans knew and loved would be rebranded as "Star Wars Legends" and considered nothing more than reference material; elements from "Legends" could still be referenced or utilized in the new "canon," same as they were before, but the "Legends" continuity is now on complete lockdown.
Now it's at this point I mention that I did leave out certain crucial details regarding the old Expanded Universe, which I'll begrudgingly from here on out refer to by its new official name of "Legends." Basically, this quote from George Lucas from the magazine Starlog, issue 337:

"I don't read that stuff. I haven't read any of the novels. I don't know anything about that world. That's a different world than my world. But I do try to keep it consistent. The way I do it now is they have a Star Wars Encyclopedia. So if I come up with a name or something else, I look it up and see if it has already been used. When I said [other people] could make their own Star Wars stories, we decided that, like Star Trek, we would have two universes: My universe and then this other one. They try to make their universe as consistent with mine as possible, but obviously they get enthusiastic and want to go off in other directions."

What this boils down to is the simple truth that Legends was never canon. Lucas's involvement in Legends was merely to say what one could or could not do; for instance, he once stopped the production on a novel about Yoda's species, an oddly-kept secret of the universe. On the other hand, he had a great deal of involvement in the Legends novel detailing the life of Darth Plagueis, the mysterious Sith mentioned by Palpatine in one of the prequel trilogy's most well-done scenes in Revenge of the Sith. So even though Legends was indeed its own kept universe, there were clearly still rules it had to follow.
Disney could have retained much of it. I see no reason why any novels taking place prior to Return of the Jedi had to have been thrown out, and why they are now creating their own new stories to fill those gaps; stories that, from what I hear, are not very interesting to begin with, though I personally have yet to read any of them. However, I already have an aversion to deviation of Legends continuity thanks to the Clone Wars cartoon, a show which has just done so many bizarre things to continuity established in Legends, and I shudder to think of what else might get changed.
And again, some of it could have been kept! The novel Labyrinth of Evil, for instance, was written as a tie-in to Revenge of the Sith, and the film even makes a reference to an event in the novel! But nope, it no longer counts! Like... why?
Well, they did keep some elements... Said elements were recycled into recent mobile software, such as a strategy game or a collection of stories that tell some tales of the new canon universe, and there's a fair bit of content that was originally introduced in Legends, just reworked a little to fit into canon. In the end, however, it seems like watered-down reference material, rather than fleshed-out stories, once again slighting the Legends continuity and its rich (and not-so-rich) storylines.
If you want to call it "Legends" and deem it a separate universe from all the new books, games, and comics coming in, fair enough, but must it be locked down? There were stories left unfinished, so many more directions the history of the Legends continuity could have gone, and instead it's now left to sit incomplete for the rest of its embattled existence. It's hard for me to see this as anything but a large middle finger to the fans of these stories—or at least the good stories, anyway—so that Disney can just spin their own stories and make their own profit and legacy. Hell, Lucas revealed that Disney elected not to use his story treatments for the new films. Now, who knows, maybe the new story group found potential in a brand new storyline of their own, but Lucas isn't a bad storywriter; the prequel trilogy did have a good story, it was just muddled by very, very poor presentation. Lucas's story in the hands of a competent film team has great potential! That's exactly the case with fan-favorites Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, after all.
Not that this is entirely a bad thing for Lucas, as he's reportedly said he's looking forward to being able to be surprised by a Star Wars film, but at the same time, it still feels cheap of Disney to disregard so many years of beloved writing, as well as the creator's own stories!
Maybe in the end, I'm just an upset fanboy. I'm aware that there's a sizable crowd that never cared about Legends, or even actively disliked it, and are happy for the reboot and eager to follow a unified, overseen canon. And sure, that's well and good, and I hope it turns out well. But many fans of Legends rightfully feel betrayed by the sudden axing of all the stories they held dear for so many years; as I said above, more than thirty years. I feel like it wouldn't be too much to ask to allow the Legends continuity to continue; they've already given the "Legends" brand to signify their separation from canon, and they plan to recirculate the stories with the brand, so I don't see continuing the Legends continuity as much of a problem.
But after all is said and done, Legends made a solid, prolific run. There's not all good, but several of the stories are clever and enriching of the galaxy far, far away we know and love. They may be gone, but to fans like me, they'll always remain in my heart.

#2 ywkls



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Posted 09 November 2015 - 02:45 PM

Ah.. the never-ending debate on Star Wars and its canon...


Personally, I completely stopped reading the books after what is known as the New Jedi Order and regarded everything that came after as Apocrypha. With regards to the reboot/new movie, I'm almost completely uninterested in either. (Not totally, since I do plan to see the new movie.)


A good example of how Star Wars could have handled its canon comes from what is likely the second-largest sci-fi franchise, Star Trek.


From the beginning, absolutely none of the books (not even those based on the movies, when you get down to it) are considered to be canon. This allows fans to basically create their own views as to what they like and don't and what they view as canon. Very few of the stories agree with one another (even the ones in the series that have continued to be made after the television shows have aired). There is some crossover and collaboration between authors; but for the most part each of those who ventures to write something in this universe does their own thing.


In essence, that is what Star Wars should have done from the get-go. If they had (instead of trying and failing to tie together stories that were written 20 years apart and ended up being mutually contradictory, not to mention being nullified by later movies) then it is likely that the uproar that arose after it was scrapped would not have been generated.


Now, it is far too late for them to save it in my opinion. But that doesn't mean that I don't still like most of the stuff they created before tearing everything apart. This is just another case of a business where the desire to increase profits got in the way of their creativity, resulting in an incredible mess for everyone involved.

#3 Dimentio


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Posted 09 November 2015 - 02:50 PM

Seems like a dick move by Disney. Jeez, a tie in book is no longer canon, when it should have been. Why, Disney, why?

Then again, this is the same company that made the very 'racist' "Song of the South" (quotes on 'racist').

Edited by Dimentio, 09 November 2015 - 02:51 PM.

#4 strike


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Posted 09 November 2015 - 03:09 PM

It's really a dilemma. I think Disney did make the best decision but then it is really a hard one. The books are still around, still as good as they ever were. If they are cannon or not is totally irrelevant honestly.


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